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Syracuse University drops interim tag from first chief diversity & inclusion officer

By Eric Reinhardt


Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud has announced the appointment of Keith Alford as the school’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. Alford had been serving in the role on an interim basis since last July, the school said. (Photo credit: Syracuse University)

SYRACUSE — Syracuse University created its new chief diversity and inclusion officer position in July 2018 and appointed Keith Alford to the role on an interim basis.

Now, the university’s board of trustees executive committee has approved Alford’s permanent appointment to the role, Syracuse announced May 13. 

Alford’s selection fulfills a “key priority” of the Chancellor Kent Syverud’s workgroup on diversity and inclusion, which, in 2016, “delivered wide-ranging recommendations aimed at creating a more welcoming, respectful campus climate,” the university said.

Nearly 200 people had expressed interest in the position. A search committee had been working to fill the role since last November. 

But the university to decided to stay with its initial selection, following Alford’s performance.

“In his capacity as interim chief diversity officer, Keith has exceeded expectations, serving as both a leader and a bridge, bringing together diverse groups and viewpoints in constructive dialogue that has produced action,” Syverud said in a news release. “I am grateful that the search committee diligently considered a strong lineup of candidates, and I am delighted that they found the most impressive candidate to be the person already doing the job in an innovative and effective way.”

In addition to his new role, Alford has also served as associate professor and chair of the Falk College’s School of Social Work. His areas of specialization include mental-health service delivery to children and families, culturally specific programming for children in out-of-home care, and contemporary rites of passage programming and loss/grief reactions among African American families, Syracuse said. 

About the post

As chief diversity and inclusion officer, Alford reports directly to Syverud and serves on the chancellor’s executive team. He also provides “executive leadership, oversight and vision” in the administration of services, programs, policies, and procedures related to “advancing Syracuse University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” per the release. 

Alford will work to centralize diversity and inclusion efforts in partnership with Syracuse University’s 13 schools and colleges; “work to curate resources and expertise for the University to use to develop a diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible environment; and develop and collaborate to create educational opportunities on diversity, inclusion and equity,” per the release.

Alford will lead the implementation of a university-wide plan for diversity and inclusion that will “provide students with an education informed by multiple points of view, life experiences, abilities, ethnicities, cultures and belief systems.”

“Diversity requires inclusion, which means actively acknowledging, incorporating, engaging and facilitating participation from all groups,” Alford said in the release. “Targeted university endeavors from all divisional operations are strengthened when diversity and inclusion are given credence and fully embraced. Certainly, at Syracuse University, one’s commitment to excellence must be strong — ensuring a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible campus environment for all. Positive coexistence leads to rich collaboration, cooperation and camaraderie. The more we increase campus diversity on a number of fronts, the more educational advantages increase for everyone associated with campus life. I’m honored to serve in this capacity.”

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