Kim creates new position, appoints diversity leader

By Megan Bennet, Editor-In-Chief

Courtesy Phil Dembinksi
Mathew Shenoda will begin his new position as dean of Academic Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and special adviser to the president in June.

Matthew Shenoda, interim chair of the Art & Art History Department and an associate professor in the Creative Writing Department, has been appointed as the new dean of Academic Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and special adviser to the president, according to a Feb. 2 statement from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim.

He will also chair the college’s DEI committee, currently chaired by Dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts Onye Ozuzu.

Though Kim has previously said the committee was weighing the options of having an administrator of diversity, equity and inclusion, as called for in the collegewide Strategic Plan, Kim said in a Feb. 2 interview with The Chronicle that the dean position was chosen because it encompasses more than an administrative role.

“What that communicates to an institution is that diversity is more of an HR kind of concern, but we are putting him in as a dean because we want everyone to understand that we are saying diversity includes HR, but it goes deeper into the content of the institution and the curriculum,” Kim said.

Shenoda served as the assistant provost for Equity and Diversity at the School of Critical Studies at The California Institute of the Arts. He was also a professor at the San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies, the statement said.

“He is a nationally recognized expert in the area of diversity… he has actually been recruited by other institutions to try and achieve this type of diversity, so we had him right here at home,” Kim said.

The statement said Shenoda will give up his position as interim chair of the department and start as the new dean in June but will continue in his role as a professor. Shenoda will be reporting to Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden, while also advising Kim on collegewide initiatives as part of his role on the cabinet, according to the statement.

Shenoda said he is excited to take on this new position at the college.

“It’s a positive move forward for further development in our curriculum” Shenoda said. “I’m very hopeful that both the president and the provost are in full support of moving the college forward in this direction.”

The work of the DEI committee, one of the committees created to implement the Strategic Plan, is something Shenoda said he has always cared about.

“It’s necessary in transforming educational institutions to be inclusive and reflective of the whole of humanity. For me, it’s both personal and academic,” he said.

Shenoda added that he is most excited to see transformations happening in the classroom, with curricular changes being one initiative he plans to work on after starting his new role along with changes in faculty. Ozuzu echoed that her main goals for the position include strategic hiring of full-time faculty.

“What we’re going to do next year hopefully is to launch several new searches [for] new faculty who will have expertise in various issues around DEI, and those are the most immediate goals alongside the various kinds of programs, lectures and artists who address these issues in their own work,” Shenoda said.

Ozuz said although Shenoda’s work will be centralized in academics, the work will need to include initiatives outside of just faculty and students because education includes the entire college community.

“[Students] are going out into a diverse world [that] has a lot of complexity [they] will have to navigate, so we need to be preparing [them] for that,” Ozuzu said. “Focusing the work of the dean on that focuses him right at the heart of why the institution is here.”

According to several committee members, they were not aware Shenoda was chosen for the role until approximately one day before the collegewide announcement.

Ramona Gupta, coordinator of Asian American Cultural Affairs and DEI Committee member, said she hopes having someone who can dedicate their full attention to diversity, equity and inclusion will help the committee work more quickly and effectively.

“We felt like whether it was a single person or finding ways to work the [duties] of the committee into our own jobs, something had to be done to make sure whoever was involved had more time to devote to the work of the DEI committee,” Gupta said.

Gupta said she hopes Shenoda will focus on many initiatives of the committee’s, including representation in the curriculum and building inclusive practices both inside and outside the classroom. Kim said Shenoda will have to learn to balance his preconceived goals with listening to the voices of others.

“His challenge is going to be to find the right balance between wanting to make things happen and making sure the community is being engaged in the conversation,” Kim said. “We move together in the community. When you are in a new role and you have a lot of goals, you push, but you have to be careful not to exclude the voices of many.”

Ozuzu said she is aware of concerns from others that the work of the committee moves slowly, but hopes Shenoda will receive support from the college to continue the work of the committee to foster change.

“We have a really great opportunity to make really powerful changes,” Onye said. “If we can all allow him and the work of the [DEI] committee to stay focused on that, then we will see incredible ripple effects.”