KNOXVILLE—Efforts to promote diversity and inclusion are needed across the University of Tennessee, according to UT President Joe DiPietro, who on Thursday announced a new leadership appointment dedicated to that cause.
Noma Anderson will assume the role of special adviser to the president on diversity and inclusion, effective July 1, DiPietro said. Anderson, dean of the UT Health Science Center College of Health Professions since 2010, also has served as chair of the president’s Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) since 2012.
“We believe very, very much in the value of diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee,” DiPietro said. “A diverse and inclusive culture equates to success. When students feel connected to and supported by their communities, that results in higher graduation rates as well as workplace success.
“Noma’s passion for these issues and her experience with system-wide collaboration uniquely positions her for this role. She has a good grasp of the many issues we’re working to address.”
DiPietro acknowledged troubling past incidents indicate that some students have arrived on UT campuses without an understanding of both the reality and importance of diversity and multiculturalism.
As special adviser, Anderson will advise the president—in collaboration with the vice president for human resources and other members of the president’s staff—on strategic planning and decision-making for diversity and inclusion initiatives system-wide. Examples of focus areas include:
- Aligning initiatives with the mission and goals of the University
- Enhancing the University’s reputation as an employer of choice
- Evaluating the University’s climate for students, faculty and staff
- Developing programs and policies
- Assessing productivity and success
“I’m honored to have been invited to serve the University of Tennessee in this important role,” said Anderson, the first African-American to have been named a dean in UT Health Science Center history. “In my new role, I see my responsibility as providing system-wide attention to diversity and inclusion, which encompass both demographic composition and campus culture. By accepting this position, I know that I’ll also be serving the state of Tennessee by contributing to a better-prepared and globally minded workforce.”
Under her leadership and at DAC’s recommendation, UT has:
- Implemented a new purchasing system that allows for increased solicitation of minority vendors
- Defined and collected demographic data on faculty, staff and students
- Created diversity councils at each campus and institute
- Updated its diversity statement to affirm the educational value of a diverse and fully inclusive campus community
UT also is incorporating diversity into accountability measures for campus and institute leadership and making plans for a future, system-wide student climate survey.
In her new role, half of Anderson’s time will be spent as special adviser to the president and as chair of DAC. The other half of her time will be devoted to serving in a faculty role tasked with streamlining admissions, transfer and financial aid processes within the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.
Anderson’s 40-year career in higher education includes leadership and faculty positions at Florida International University in Miami, where she was chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, following serving as dean of the School of Health Sciences. Prior to that, Anderson chaired the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Among other notable appointments, she has served on the advisory board and advisory council of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health.
Anderson earned a doctoral degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in speech pathology from Emerson College in Boston. She earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia.
Editor Note: Photo of Anderson available for download here