Carnegie Mellon University

July 23, 2020

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Community,

Today, I am writing to share two important updates regarding the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) position: the announcement of the advisory committee to help lead our global search and the appointment of an Interim Vice Provost.

This role is profoundly critical and necessary for Carnegie Mellon University as it signals a change in how we address racism, classism, sexism and the language of othering that persists in this country and across our campus community.

In order to help identify the best candidates for this critical position, I have appointed a search advisory committee, to be co-chaired by professors Eric Anderson, Associate Professor School of Design and Senior Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Linda Babcock, Social and Decisions Sciences Department Head and James M. Walton Professor in Economics in the Dietrich College. Search committee members are:

  • Brittany Allison, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research and National Fellowships
  • Angela Blanton, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer
  • Santiago Carrasquilla, Ph.D. Candidate, Biomechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Ebenezer Concepción, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Modern Languages, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Tomé Cousin, Associate Professor, Dance, School of Drama
  • Jeff Galak, Associate Professor of Marketing, Tepper School of Business
  • Georgia Giatras, Vice Provost for Resource Planning
  • Martial Hebert, Dean of the School of Computer Science
  • Holly Hippensteel, Associate Vice President for Community Standards and Diversity Initiatives
  • Brian Kovak, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Heinz College
  • Anne Lambright, Faculty and Head of Modern Languages, Dietrich College
  • Rema Padman, Professor of Management Science and Healthcare Informatics, Heinz College
  • Sammie Paul, Undergraduate Student, Drama, College of Fine Arts
  • Manfred Paulini, Professor of Physics and Associate Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs, Mellon College of Sciences
  • Sean Qian, Henry Posner, Anne Molloy, and Robert and Christine Pietrandrea Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Elizabeth Rosemeyer, Director and Title IX Coordinator, Office of Title IX Initiatives
  • Shannon Riffe, Director of Marketing and Communications, University Libraries
  • Alida Smith, Associate Vice President, Marketing and Communications
  • Shernell Smith, Executive Director for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion and Housefellow
  • Conrad Tucker, Arthur Hamerschlag Career Development Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Alisha Wormsley, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, College of Fine Arts

The committee will be assisted by the executive search firm Spelman Johnson.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will do much to elevate the conversation around equity and inclusion in the wake of social unrest triggered by ongoing police brutality toward Black and African American citizens in this country. Together, the president and I will partner with the new vice provost to hold ourselves and the community accountable for the commitments and actions outlined in President Jahanian’s recent memo to the community.

To move quickly on these commitments, I am delighted that Dr. Shawn Blanton, the Trustee Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, has agreed to serve as the Interim Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion while the search process unfolds. Dr. Blanton brings extensive leadership and experience to this interim position. He previously led the development of the DEI plan in Engineering and serves on the campus climate implementation steering committee. During his term as Interim Vice Provost, I have asked Dr. Blanton to focus on an expansion of CMU’s local community engagement, to explore ways to attract and retain underrepresented students from the Pittsburgh area as undergraduates and to work with the academic Deans and their DEI Strategic Planning leaders to increase the diversity of their faculty and graduate students. Building on his excellent work in the College of Engineering, Dr. Blanton is extremely well suited to take up these important specific initiatives at the university level in the coming year and I am grateful to him for being willing to serve in this role.

The creation of this role comes after months of educational preparation and listening, both within our leadership and across the broader campus community. In addition to hosting forums and discussions to hear from our community members, we invited leader and educator Dr. Damon Williams to look closely at our aspirations and goals for this new office of DEI. Dr. Williams provided inspiration, knowledge, evidence-based solutions and a number of actionable ideas that will shape how this office is developed.

As the university’s chief diversity officer, this person will be instrumental in long-range DEI planning and implementation. This includes coordinating with each of the academic and administrative units in overseeing their five-year strategic DEI plans and college-based commitments and coordinating our efforts for faculty, staff and students. The office will assist me and the president on deciding university-level resources and programs, and build on the work of the Committee on Faculty Diversity, Inclusion and Development (FCDID). Additionally, they will work in close concert with the Vice Provost for Faculty, Human Resources, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Staff Council, Faculty Senate, student government, and the schools and colleges.

This position plays an integral role in promoting inclusiveness and diversity, challenging the status quo and maintaining a robust dialog centered around anti-racist practices and the research that supports it.

While we intend to move swiftly, so we can continue to build on the university’s momentum, I’ve asked the committee to look broadly for outstanding candidates, both within our community and among proven leaders outside the university, who know CMU and understand the distinct opportunities open to us right now.

Nominations from the community are strongly encouraged and may be submitted via the Vice Provost for DEI search website. The search committee will interview candidates through the fall semester. Although the process must promise confidentiality in order to attract the best candidates, we intend that there will continue to be opportunities from faculty, students, staff and alumni to participate throughout the process. To submit questions, provide a comment or make a suggestion, please fill out our comment form.

I look forward to sharing more details about this office at the conclusion of the search.


Jim Garrett, Provost