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Dean of Student Affairs Search: A Path Forward for Our Community

December 13, 2018

Dear Campus Community:

Gallaudet University is committed to providing its students with a quality education in and out of the classroom. One of the key responsibilities of the Division of Student Affairs is to guide student citizenship, create greater student engagement, and enhance student morale. We want to support students’ living, well-being, and belonging, and enable each and every student to thrive on our campus. We also want to create a pipeline of young, diverse leaders through training, institutional support, and mentorship. An engaged and effective Student Affairs team is essential to the success of these goals with our students.
 
As you know, we have been engaged in a search for a new Dean of Student Affairs. As this search was underway, increasing pressure and attention began to emerge in the community related to diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence. It is not uncommon when a significant search is underway for this to occur. These two strands of work are interrelated.

The path forward

This path forward is because of the work of the search committee, and the community leadership, wisdom, and engagement that informed and clarified my decisions. Thank you to all of you who have been part of the process.

There are four key elements of the path forward.

1. Appointment of Travis L. Imel as Interim Dean of Student Affairs

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Travis L. Imel, ’00 & G-’02, as Interim Dean of Student Affairs. Because the planned campus presentation will not give us the time for key stakeholders and Mr. Imel to answer questions that have surfaced in a way that will be productive and constructive, Mr. Imel has agreed to serve as Interim Dean for one year. At the end of one year, in January and February 2020, I will conduct stakeholder group interviews to gather feedback about our experiences with his leadership as Interim Dean. This time of reflection and relationship building will give us, as a community, more solid insights on our next steps.

Because he has worked for Student Affairs for such a long time, questions have arisen about whether Mr. Imel will be able to advance a strong and robust vision for Student Affairs. This is a valid question, and it is one of the reasons why it is important for him to serve as Interim Dean first.

2. Promotion of Eyob T. Zerayesus to strengthen the Student Affairs leadership team

Second, after the search committee’s report and Equal Opportunity Programs review were completed, multiple people and I identified Eyob T. Zerayesus as an emerging leader with demonstrated strengths that would benefit leadership in Student Affairs. I am promoting Mr. Zerayesus to a leadership role within the Division of Student Affairs. Interim Dean Imel and Mr. Zerayesus will work closely to ensure the collective success of Student Affairs. Interim Dean Imel has 30 to 60 days to define the leadership role and accompanying job description for Mr. Zerayesus.

3. Advancing diversity, equity and inclusive excellence and a culture of belonging in Student Affairs

Third, equity, diversity, and inclusive excellence is on the forefront of all our efforts, decisions and actions. Our path forward requires us to use our collective wisdom, expertise, and experiences to guide us. Interim Dean Imel will partner with our Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusive Excellence to create several cross-cultural conversations beginning early in the spring semester to address opportunities for improvement within Student Affairs and build a stronger culture of belonging for all students in our community.

4. Strengthening confidence in our search committees and HR and EEO systems

We must strengthen our confidence in the work of our search committees, Human Resources, and Equal Employment Opportunity systems. The search committee for the position of Dean of Student Affairs advanced one candidate, Mr. Imel, as the only candidate they felt confident could fulfill the important responsibilities of this role. This was supported by his experience and preparation for this role during his service as Assistant Dean.

The committee for this search were carefully selected to represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. They invested much time, energy, and care into this process. We appreciate their work and recognize that their work has been subject to a great deal of scrutiny. At the close of their work, the committee also provided me with a summary of the finalist’s strengths and areas of growth.

While the Equal Opportunity Programs review of the search process found no evidence of discrimination, it identified some procedures that could be better aligned with hiring best practices. Gallaudet University voluntarily supports an affirmative action policy to actively recruit and hire qualified diverse deaf and hard of hearing applicants for positions. The University is deeply committed to diversity, inclusion and equity. We are specifically dedicated to employing clear and consistent hiring practices that result in a candidate pool and internal promotions that accurately reflect the robust and diverse culture of Gallaudet. Most of all, we must continue to ensure that our decisions are equitable to all and sustainable across all facets of our university, its programs and services, its community, and its culture.

Key expectations for next year

As part of our commitment moving forward, Interim Dean Imel and I have agreed that he will:

●    host a forum, by February 2019, to deliver his initial vision for Student Affairs and his leadership. This forum will be scheduled at a time that works best for students—although it will be open to the broader community—and it will include a question and answer period. It will also be followed by the first cross-cultural dialogue;

●    plan to meet one-on-one with every student organization, including those that represent students from diverse backgrounds, beginning immediately when the academic semester opens; and

●    focus on deepening his and our understanding and appreciation of the lived experiences of all identities and the complexity of the intersectionality of those identities. This will inform the design of a leadership team to address the identified disparities and needs of our students.

Remember, as I mentioned earlier, at the end of his interim year, I will host a series of stakeholder conversations within our community to gather feedback to inform what our next steps will be.

Let us as a community thank the members of the Dean of Student Affairs search committee for their leadership and hard work on our behalf. My hope is that this path forward will reinforce our community’s desire to strengthen a culture of belonging for everyone. Thank you, each one of you, for your investment in this search, deep commitment to strengthening Gallaudet and help to clarify the path forward that we take today.

We all care about our students and their success. I invite you to embrace this journey as one community.

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Imel and Mr. Zerayesus on their new roles.

Thank you, and warmest wishes for the holiday season.

Sincerely,

Roberta J. Cordano
President

Posted by Andrew Greenman | Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Gallaudet

800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002

Gallaudet

800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002