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WCU’s first chief diversity officer accepts new position

Ricard Nazario-Colón was the university’s first ever chief diversity officer. Donated photo Ricard Nazario-Colón was the university’s first ever chief diversity officer. Donated photo

Ricardo Nazario-Colón, Western Carolina University’s inaugural chief diversity officer, has been appointed by the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees as the senior vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.

The announcement was made Tuesday, March 21, by SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. and will be effective May 15. Nazario-Colón was born in South Bronx, New York, and raised in Puerto Rico.

“The Ricardo that is returning to New York after 20 years is someone shaped by meaningful personal and exceptional professional experiences and development that have made me a respected leader in the diversity, equity and inclusion sphere,” Nazario-Colón said. “I look forward to helping transform SUNY into a leading system of higher education by demonstrating how a system committed to diversity, equity and inclusion can address barriers to access, degree attainment and student and professional success.”

Nazario-Colón came to WCU in 2016 as the university’s inaugural chief diversity officer. Among his many accomplishments over the last seven years are: led the Council on Inclusive Excellence in implementing the recommendations of the Joint Taskforce on Racism, a multidisciplinary group composed of campus members from various roles that studied and considered issues related to diversity and inclusion (specifically race and ethnicity) at WCU; recommended an increase in resources for diversity training and education opportunities, such as the National Coalition Building Institute Train-the-Trainer program; the WCU Strategic Plan’s 3.0 Inclusive Excellence, which provided precise and distinct guidance for campuswide engagement; Inclusive Excellence Awards; Inclusive Excellence Symposium; completed the work of the Blue Ribbon Inclusive Excellence Task Force which established WCU’s first Strategic Inclusive Excellence Action Plan – Lean Forward; and launched the Higher Education Research Institute’s Climate survey for faculty, staff and students.

“As the institution’s inaugural chief diversity officer, Dr. Ricardo Nazario-Colón has passionately led the way to ensure all who come to WCU, whether it be students, faculty and staff, alumni, and/or visitors, feel welcomed, feel like they belong,” WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown said. “Through such efforts as the National Coalition Building Institute training, the HERI Climate survey for students, faculty and staff, and launching the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Symposium, Ricardo has provided a solid foundation for WCU inclusive excellence success. I have enjoyed working alongside Ricardo and wish him every success in his new role.”

“Ricardo worked broadly with students, faculty and staff to make our campus community a better place,” WCU Provost Richard Starnes said. “His efforts highlighted awareness, facilitated important conversations and empowered all members of our community, and his work set us on a path for a brighter future.”

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SUNY is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the U.S. and more than 95% of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of one of its 64 colleges and universities. SUNY serves about 1.4 million students among its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education and community outreach programs. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide.

“The last seven years at Western, working with remarkable leaders, both faculty and staff, has made me appreciate what we can accomplish as a committed community of scholars dedicated to shaping and preparing another generation of citizens,” Nazario-Colón said. “I viewed my role as a facilitator, a catalyst and a resource to tap the deep expertise of our community. The best work we have done has been the work that colleagues across campus have spearheaded. That engagement has been critical to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for all members of the WCU family.”

Chancellor Brown will initiate a search for the next chief diversity officer later this summer.

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