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Doane searches for Chief Diversity Officer

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President Jacque Carter is taking a big step in making Doane University more diverse and inclusive.

Doane needs someone who comes to campus every day focused on making Doane more diverse, Carter said.

With that in mind, the search process began for this person. Carter announced the creation of the position in August, and the search committee has worked to narrow down candidates ever since.

Last week, two candidates for the Chief Diversity Officer position interviewed on campus.

The first candidate, Luis Sotelo, was born in Mexico and moved to Lexington, Nebraska where he currently serves as Vice President of the Public Library Board of Trustees, as Levington High School’s speech coach, in addition to being a Bilingual College Planning Specialist for EducationQuest and the secretary for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska.

Sotelo has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Political Science.

In this position, his first interest is increasing diversity on campus by targeting different areas than Doane has in the past, he said during an open forum with Doane staff, faculty and community members.

“You can’t have diversity without diversity, you can’t feel included if you’re the only one,” Sotelo said.

But he realizes this isn’t an easy task and will take time, so his first priority if hired would be to meet with various people across campus, build relationships with them and develop a master plan for increasing diversity within his first year, he said.

The second candidate, Pete Ferguson, is the Youth Development Coordinator of Federal Programs for Lincoln Public Schools, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts and English from Hastings College.

During an open forum, Ferguson spoke about the position being more than just about people of color, but if selected, he wants to support all kinds of diversity and help students, staff and faculty develop the 21st century diversity skills he believes they need, he said.

He laid out two goals to accomplish this: first, ensure that all faculty and students have a voice, and second, recruit more diverse faculty, staff and students.

Ferguson said, if hired, with these two goals in mind a culture of belonging, cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect could be built.

Doane’s students are ready for these changes.

“In order for the university to grow and evolve with the current climate of academia today it’s a position that’s necessary…,” junior Kennerly Benraty said. “It’s important to have someone on your campus who understands the intricacies of developing a diverse community.”

Freshman Mady Vogel too, is ready for someone to be dedicated just to educating the community on diversity, as she’s not experienced much diversity in her education, she said.

“I’m black and white, but I’m from the middle of Nebraska and at my school there were like three black people and nobody ever talked about diversity,” she said.

This position would do just that: not only work to recruit students, staff and faculty of various races, genders and backgrounds, but also work with Doane’s current community to create a more inclusive environment, theposition description explains.

Carter said the purpose of the position is to address two areas, to increase advocacy and training for faculty and staff so they’re more aware and sensitive to diversity, and support students in their education so they can live, work and learn in a more multicultural environment.

Both candidates echoed these sentiments.

Sotelo said he will build inclusion into the classroom, recruit minority students, provide more financial assistance and provide minority students with mentorship opportunities to help retain those students, he said in the forum.

Ferguson’s focus is more on changing the framework of how Doane thinks about diversity. He’ll focus on systemic changes and ‘weaving diversity into the fabric of Doane,’ before working to dramatically increase the number of minority students in attendance.

But now it’s time for a decision to be made, said Carter.

In the coming days Doane’s Human Resources Office is collecting feedback from the community, the search committee is meeting and Carter will discuss all feedback before he makes the final decision between Sotelo and Ferguson, he said.

Vogel, Benraty, Carter and McKeithan are happy with the candidates they brought and believe either could do the job, they said.

“I loved some of the things Luis brought up, how he handled himself in the setting in the school. I love how Pete Ferguson presented himself very well, very strong,” Benraty said. “Two very strong candidates that I think, regardless of which one is offered the position, will help this school go into a better direction.”