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CAMPUS CLOSEUP Maurice L. Bryan Jr. - Associate vice provost for diversity and equity

R. Steve Dick/University Relations

Maurice Bryan is KU's new vice provost for diversity and equity. He recruits, and works to retain, a diverse faculty and staff.

Time in current job: Since July 2.

Job duties: I am responsible for the coordination, communication and clarification of the University of Kansas' commitment to diversity and equity in its faculty, staff, students and educational programs.

What have you found to be effective ways of recruiting a diverse faculty and staff?

  • Aggressive networking. Looking for nontraditional sources of candidates (e.g. visiting lectureships, persons in industry or government, relationships with institutions with populations that could positively impact our profile of under-represented faculty and staff).
  • Early identification of potential candidates.
  • Develop a practice of proactive shaping of the pool rather than a passive reception of who comes into the pool.
  • Broad position descriptions that would allow and facilitate a creative shaping of the pool.

Recruiting a diverse workforce is one part of your job and retention is another. How do you keep under-represented faculty and staff here once they've started? People want to be valued as persons not as a category. Retention is a by-product of genuine openness to voices that ring differently than our own, to ideas and perspectives that challenge the status quo, to an environment that appreciates, supports and rewards individuals who bring something new and different to the table. When we do this well and build an engaged community that truly values diversity, in its practices as well as its rhetoric, people will want to stay and continue to be a part of that project.

You have a long history with KU, having previously served eight years as the director of equal opportunity. What prompted you to come back? The primary reason I left KU was to be provost at my alma mater, Ottawa University. I felt called to give back to an institution that had given me so much in my life. Leaving Ottawa University enabled me to work on a project that was extremely important to me: the completion of my doctorate in American studies.

It did not take long after I began working at KU in the early 1990s for me to develop a deep affection for the people, the place and the potential of KU. I felt privileged to be associated with such a place, and wanted to make my small contribution to facilitate KU's journey from an organization with pockets of excellence to a fully stitched organizational quilt of excellence.

What do you enjoy most about your profession? The opportunity to participate, in large and small ways, with one of the finest adventures of human endeavor: the process of learning to be human. If I can assist a student, staff or faculty member or any other stakeholder of the university, to have a successful moment—-whether through giving advice, problem solving or working on a project—-I have made my day.

What are some aspects of your job others might not realize you're involved with? Currently, a critical priority of this office is to help with the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color. However, connected to recruitment and retention, is the need to support faculty and staff learning initiatives, specifically initiatives that would assist in advancing our comprehensive commitment to diversity.

University administrators have touted a diverse workforce as beneficial to students. How does the university itself benefit from a diverse faculty and staff?

Recognition of the value of diversity is not the real issue. We all tout the value of diversity in our everyday lives. How many of us would choose to do the same exact thing every day of our lives? How many of us would choose to have everyone in our lives be carbon copies of ourselves? The issue is not whether we value diversity or not, the issue is our willingness and courage to value, promote and commit to diversity even when it comes at the cost of our comfort. At a basic level, many of us recognize and even embrace that each individual is different. But as we move further away from our zones of comfort, either through geography, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, culture, or by way of different abilities, or different perspectives, etc. we erect barriers in response to our self- created perception of threat.

Opening ourselves to all forms of diversity enhances our lives in any number of ways. It excites the classroom and facilitates the learning process; it helps us solve problems, big and small; it broadens the gifts of our culture and facilitates our ability to communicate and connect with other cultures; it continues the democratic project of making us more human.

Lofty ideals, yes, but our nation was founded upon lofty ideals that we strive, not always successfully, to reach. Public institutions of higher education, like the University of Kansas, can serve as rafts to help us cross the divide of our own fears, anxieties and resistance to ‘the other,' to those we perceive as different and therefore suspect.

How will you go about evaluating the success of existing diversity programs at KU? This will be a challenge. Increasing numbers will be a comparatively easy measure, especially as we become clearer about our goals across the university. However, diversity and measuring the success of our efforts is about more than numbers. We will need to conduct climate surveys and other institutional audits, to see if we, as a community, believe we are progressing along the path of successfully incorporating diversity into the DNA of the University of Kansas. This is not a static place we will one day be able to say, "We have arrived." Instead, it will entail a continuous process of reflection, vigilance and evaluation to ensure that our practices, structures and rhetoric, in short, our organization culture remains focused upon our ideal of a liberating education for global citizenship. We must not forget that Democracy begins at home. One home for us is the University of Kansas.

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The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).