CDI fields student feedback in new director selection

By Jay Roberson

Following the departure of Center for Diversity and Inclusion Assistant Director, Shaun Williams, in January, Rider’s Chief Diversity Officer, Heeyoung Kim, is allowing Rider students to voice their opinion on the three finalists for the CDI director position.

Williams took the role of CDI director after Pamela Pruitt departed last June, but was met with criticism from students, specifically for claims of misgendering.

Kim said, “It’s important for me to get feedback from the student body so students are actually able to see the finalists … When I search for other positions that work with faculty members, I open invite all the faculty members to meet the finalists. It’s the same way I’ve been doing it.”

The three candidates include Jasmine Johnson, Anthony Jones and Rider alum Mike Jackson ’92, who came to campus on April 16, 18 and 23, respectively.

Each candidate had the opportunity to talk with students in an open forum and give a training presentation to faculty members, each forum lasting about an hour.

Following the open forum with Rider students, surveys were sent out via email to those who attended so that their opinion on the candidate could be considered.

“Many students and faculty members said all of the candidates were qualified to do the job, so they were happy we had good finalists,” said Kim. 

All the candidates have a background in higher education and a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Kim. 

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Nick Barbati emphasized that the students’ voice is essential in selecting the new director.

“For me personally, I think it’s so important for someone to be able to build community and develop relationships with our students,” said Barbati. “That, to me, is the paramount element of, first of all, anyone that works at Rider University, but particularly for this position.”

Kim hopes that the university will be able to pick a new CDI director before June, which is when an orientation is being planned for the chosen candidate. 

Kim anticipates the integration of the new director to be a bit smoother, as each candidate has already met many of the students, staff and faculty they will be regularly interacting with.

“It’ll be hard to pick one, but in general the in-person feedback was [positive for each candidate]. I’m looking forward to seeing the anonymous feedback,” said Kim. “I hope I can make the decision in two weeks, because it takes time to see references.”

All student feedback will be taken into consideration when choosing the finalist for the CDI director, Kim said.

Barbati said, “I think students need to be a part of this process and I’m so happy that they are. It’s definitely going to be weighted significantly.”

With the departure of Williams, the assistant director position also sits vacant. Kim hopes to eventually fill that position after a new director is appointed, but she could not offer a timeline.

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