CDO to survey faculty for diverse courses

By Satta Kendor

Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden said she will be working to integrate diversity into NIU’s curriculum using a survey distributed to faculty members.

Edghill-Walden became NIU’s first chief diversity officer on Aug. 1. Her role is to promote unity on and off campus, infuse diversity into the curriculum and create an overall atmosphere that represents diversity and inclusion, said Lisa Freeman, executive vice president and provost.

The survey will be used to identify human diversity courses and assess what changes can be made, Edghill-Walden said. She did not specify when and how the survey would be made available.

CDO ‘a very important hire’

The chief diversity officer has the ear of NIU’s executive leadership, said Katrina Caldwell, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. Caldwell was a member of the year-long Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which ultimately created the chief diversity officer position.

“I think this was a very important hire for the university,” Freeman said. “In the short term that Dr. Edghill-Walden has been here, she’s covered a lot of ground.”

Edghill-Walden met with more than 70 directors from all of the campus resource centers and heard concerns through a listening tour in her first two weeks at NIU, Freeman said.

“I’m as equally excited as I was before I started,” Edghill-Walden said. “I think that it’s been a great opportunity to listen to all the stakeholders and to really try to begin to figure out ways that we can better collaborate and to work on many of the initiatives that were discussed as recommendations set out in the final Diversity and Inclusion Task Force report.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force recommended the chief diversity officer position, and other recommendations from the task force, including bettering relationships between organizations and DeKalb and NIU, are now moving forward, Edghill-Walden said.

“I think it’s really important that our students feel welcomed and included,” Freeman said. “ … We want them to leave the university — or graduate from the university — loving NIU and also loving their experience in DeKalb and even thinking about staying here to start their businesses or to raise their families.”

Sophomore business major Viviana Mendoza said classrooms should have an atmosphere of students connecting and helping each other out during and after class. Emphasizing the importance of diversity in the academic community is critical, Mendoza said.

Freshman pre-medical major Jeremy Farley said diversity plays a huge role feeling comfortable around other groups on campus.

“It helps mankind better themselves, to move on, to evolve,” Farley said. “Diversity is very helpful in life. It’s like a caterpillar: A caterpillar needs to evolve to turn into a butterfly, and I believe that as we diversify ourselves we are evolving to something even more than what we are today.”