Luther College Chips

Dean for Equity and Inclusion candidates interview on campus

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Lloren Foster, Leon Rodrigues, and Poonam Arora (L-R)

Lloren Foster, Leon Rodrigues, and Poonam Arora (L-R)

Lloren Foster, Leon Rodrigues, and Poonam Arora (L-R)

Xavier Conzet, Staff Writer

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Luther College began interviewing candidates for the newly formed position of Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion this month.

The three candidates— Lloren Foster, Leon Rodrigues, and Poonam Arora, —came to Luther’s campus during a two-week time period to give individual on-site forums which students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to attend.

“The Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion re-visions the work of the former position of Executive Director of the Diversity Center,” according to the job posting.

The posting also states that the candidates have “education, perspectives, and experience [which will] enable them to promote a culture of inclusion, and develop and implement institutional strategies and initiatives to sustain and advance the college as a diverse and welcoming community.”

The first candidate to interview was Lloren Foster. Foster started his educational journey at Chicago State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and recieved a Ph.D. in Afro-American Studies from Amherst College. Foster worked as an assistant professor of English at Hampton University and an assistant professor of African-American Studies at Western Kentucky University. This led him to become the Executive Director of the University of Florida in 2015 for a year before the administration decided not to renew his contract in the fall of 2016.

Leon Rodrigues’ interview was held a week after Foster’s. Rodrigues earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Cape in South Africa before enrolling in the University of Minnesota to complete his master’s degree and Ph.D. After graduating from the U of M, Rodrigues began to teach for the U of M from 1999-2003.  Following his time at the U of M, Rodrigues worked at Bethel University as an associate professor.  He was promoted to the position of Special Assistant of the President and later became Chief Diversity Officer.

The final candidate to apply was Poonam Arora. Arora earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Stephen’s College in India. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in English from the University of Delhi. Arora recieved her Ph.D. at Binghamton University. After completing her education, Arora taught as an associate professor while directing the Women and Gender Studies program at the University of Michigan Dearborn for nearly twenty years.  After that, she went on to become an assistant dean at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. Arora returned to the U.S. after applying to be an English professor and the Vice President of Diversity Integration at Hamline University where she stayed until 2012. After her time at Hamline, she began to work at Grinnell College as the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.

Interim Director of Diversity Center Wintlett Taylor-Browne said the Diversity Center is optimistic about the new position.

“There is not a single person on this campus that will not benefit from this position,” Taylor-Browne said. “Nobody. A position like this that helps all of us think broadly about diversity and inclusion can only be for the better.”

However, some have raised concerns over the influenece of the new position. Professor of Religion Guy Nave said he is worried that the new dean will not be given enough control to make a difference.

“While the title suggests this position is concerned about institutional equity and inclusion, according to the last organizational structure flowchart that I saw, the only direct reporting line to this position is the Luther Diversity Center,” Nave said. “It seems to me that by limiting the position’s direct oversight to the Diversity Center only, the college is suggesting that the Diversity Center is the only place where issues of equity and inclusion are addressed.”

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