Kendall Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, was interviewed by Observer for the story “The Privileges and Pitfalls of ‘WandaVision’ and Marvel’s Disney+ Empire.” Phillips, who teaches a class on the…
Keith A. Alford Appointed Syracuse University’s First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
The search committee for a chief diversity and inclusion officer was tasked last November with identifying an innovative and inspiring leader who would work collaboratively to create a more welcoming, diverse, accessible and inclusive community. Nearly 200 talented individuals expressed interest in the position, but the committee ultimately recommended the person who has been successfully serving in an interim capacity since last July. Today, Chancellor Kent Syverud announced that Dr. Keith A. Alford will serve as Syracuse University’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. Alford’s appointment was approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Alford’s appointment fulfills a key priority of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion, which, in 2016, delivered wide-ranging recommendations aimed at creating a more welcoming, respectful campus climate.
“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,” says Chancellor Syverud. “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.”
As chief diversity and inclusion officer, Alford reports directly to the Chancellor, serves on the Chancellor’s Executive Team and 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. Alford will also lead the implementation of a Universitywide strategic 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,” says Alford. “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.”
As chief diversity and inclusion officer, Alford will also work to centralize diversity and inclusion efforts in partnership with the 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.
As interim chief diversity officer, Alford helped bring together faculty and staff members from each of the University’s schools and colleges who lead diversity and inclusion efforts in their respective units to form the Inclusive Leadership Assembly. The group, chaired by Alford, discusses best practices, and its members exchange ideas to better support students, faculty and staff. Alford, who is a member of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, has also worked with students and faculty and staff partners across campus, including within the Office of Academic Affairs and its Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and Center for Faculty Leadership and Professional Development, to bring programming and workshops on diversity and inclusion and understanding bias to the campus community.
LaVonda Reed, professor of law and associate provost for faculty affairs, who along with Dolan Evanovich, senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience, co-chaired the search committee, says the committee was impressed with the caliber, experience and achievements of the candidate pool. But it was Alford’s proven ability to cultivate cross-campus relationships, his commitment to effecting meaningful change and his depth of tangible and applicable experience that elevated him above other candidates.
“Through his commitment to outreach and dialogue, and his continuous advocacy for issues related to inclusion and engagement over his professional career, Keith has become the chief diversity and inclusion officer we were seeking,” says Reed. “As a member of our faculty, he has established himself as a thoughtful scholar and one who understands the capacity each of us possess to grow intellectually and in our interactions with the world around us. He is an attentive listener who strives to understand the challenges, ideas and aspirations of our University community as evidenced by his interactions with many students and student groups, faculty and staff. He is a patient, thoughtful and dedicated leader who is willing to tackle the most difficult challenges. The University has already been the beneficiary of the positive and productive initiatives he has implemented to achieve our aspirational vision.” She noted that Alford has kept the University community well-informed of initiatives and opportunities for engagement, through his campus-wide emails and the diversity website.
Alford has served as associate professor and chair of the Falk College’s School of Social Work. He has also served as the graduate program director. Alford’s areas of specialization include mental health service delivery to children and families, culturally specific programming for children in out-of-home care, contemporary rites of passage programming and loss/grief reactions among African American families. Through his teaching, he is involved with a National Science Foundation grant supporting the training of diverse undergraduates in conducting trauma research with veterans. He also serves on the University Senate Committee on Diversity, is a member of the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and serves as an advisor to the Student of Color Advisory Committee.
Alford received a Ph.D. from the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He earned a master of social work degree, also from OSU, and a bachelor of arts degree in history and sociology from Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina.