A New York-based diversity leader and MU alumna spoke on the importance of faculty presence and working with skeptics in her virtual interview Wednesday to be the next MU vice chancellor for diversity, inclusion and equity.
Tamra Minor, assistant vice president for the office of diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at the State University of New York at Albany, was the third and last finalist to participate in an open campus forum for the head role at MU. Minor earned her bachelor’s degree at MU in 1981 and also participated in Marching Mizzou, including two years as a drum major.
Minor frequently cited her work with faculty and campus committees in her current position, emphasizing advances in diversity are best made with collaboration and a broad vision.
“When I arrived (at SUNY), it was very clear that many of the campus stakeholders had opposition to much of the work, mainly because we had a narrow definition and vision for the work,” Minor said. “By broadening this definition, we sent a clear message that we were moving forward with a more inclusive approach.”
As chief diversity officer there, Minor said she helped craft an “action plan” that involved working with department leaders across campus. She believed those partnerships made more faculty buy in.
“I was able to buy in from leadership across campus, but we also knew that making the work more relevant to what was happening within respective units would garner more support from faculty,” Minor said.
That support should be won from both advocates of diversity efforts and those who may be skeptical of them, Minor said.
“Very few people deny the benefit of different perspectives, ideas, thoughts,” she said. “It’s helping them to relate to exactly what the value could be in this space. It will take getting to know the people and understanding them. We have to collaborate with folks that are different from us.”
Minor fielded questions from search committee co-chairs Pat Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science, and professor emeritus Michael Middleton on issues of accessibility, the LGBTQ+ community and the new federal Title IX guidelines, for which Minor expressed concerns.
“These (changes) will probably have a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come forward,” she said.
Minor is not the first SUNY official considered for a top MU position in recent years.
Former Chancellor Alexander Cartwright served as provost and executive vice chancellor for the SUNY System prior to his arrival at MU in 2017. He left in March to become president of the University of Central Florida.
MU is expected to make a selection for the position by the end of June, spokesperson Christian Basi said.