A submission from NCF’s Chief Diversity Officer
Hello Novos! My name is Bill Woodson. I use the pronouns he, him, himself. The culture of pronouns is relatively new for me. Imagine that—the school’s new Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is new to preferred pronouns. Maybe instead of new, I should say it feels like a recently emerging development, given that I’ve been an active diversity and inclusion advocate for 20 years. In fact, when I founded a management consulting practice more than a decade ago, diversity and inclusion was a primary practice area. I fully embrace the notion that lifelong learning is a thing, even for, and perhaps, especially for, so-called experts.
Most people seem to want to fit in, and at the same time be seen as unique. It’s fair to say that I can appear to be a collection of contradictions as well. So what might you want to know about me, other than my job title, my new-employee status and my interest in inclusion? Well, I’m not a youngster. My qualifications for the role include 20 years of Fortune 500 experience, and a couple of Ivy League degrees. Then again, I’m also a recent graduate—December 2018, to be exact. That recent experience on the other side of the classroom reinforced my natural affinity for the student’s perspective. The highs and lows of registering for the next semester’s classes, staying up late to finish a reflection paper minutes before the deadline and negotiating the shape of my thesis with my advisor—it all feels like it was only yesterday!
While this is my first time living in Sarasota full-time, I’m also a Sarasota native, that is to say I was born here, although I spent most of my childhood in Washington, D.C. And just last month I made the permanent move to Sarasota, from Minneapolis. While I‘ve been immersed in the academic world for over a decade now, and really love it, I‘ve never been all that crazy about being a student…which may sound strange, coming from a guy with three graduate degrees. Don’t tell anyone, but, between you and me, I see Higher Ed as the place to go when I need credentials in order to do the work that interests and excites me the most. And I am really excited about joining the New College community.
But what does a Chief Diversity Officer do, you might ask? Well, it’s a relatively recent emerging job title. Having benchmarked what other CDOs do…the short answer is…, “it varies.” One thing that virtually all CDO’s have as an area of focus is organizational culture. So when the lead article in last week’s Catalyst cited President Donal O’Shea’s perception of the New College social climate as “unwelcoming” and “challenging,” you can believe that caught my attention. I’m eager to learn from you, our New College students, about your experience of New College’s culture.
What’s exciting about being the first in this role here at New College is that I will have a lot to say about what the job will be. And you, the New College community, will have a lot to say about that as well. Which I hope excites you too.
In addition to the CDO job title, I also will be serving as New College’s first Dean of Outreach and Engagement. That title might not be familiar to you but the work is quite familiar for me, as I’ve served in that capacity, under a variety of job titles, for much of the past 20 years, in both colleges and Fortune 500 companies (think “New Business Development”). As a part of that outreach function, the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) will be reporting to me. Here’s how I see the role of outreach and engagement. It’s building connections between the incredible talents of New College faculty and students, and the exciting research, service and experiential learning opportunities that exist in the Sarasota-Manatee community that we are a part of. It’s also connecting New College students to the career and advanced degree opportunities that await you—throughout the state, across the country and around the world.
That may sound rather broad—but I hope it’s enough to make you want to learn more, because I’m looking forward to meeting you! To make it easier I’ll be holding office hours around the campus on Thursdays, whenever I’m in town. Stop by so we can say “Hi” face-to-face, and let’s talk about how I can best serve you as we build community together.
Bill Woodson, CDO and Dean of Outreach and Engagement, will be holding office hours Thursdays at 3 p.m. in the following locations:
Mar. 28 – Student Activities and Campus Engagement (SA[u]CE) Office, HCL 4
Apr. 11 – CEO
Apr. 25 – Hamilton “Ham” Center
May 2 – CEO
May 7 – SA[u]CE Office, HCL 4