Colby is pleased to introduce Laura Renée Chandler as associate provost and dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a new position created to lead and promote DEI efforts across the College.
A decorated historian with expertise in African-American history, feminist history, intercultural communication, and related topics, Chandler comes to Colby from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, where she was the inaugural vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this position, Chandler was the first person to help Oglethorpe craft a DEI strategy, and she focused on engagement, belonging, building capacity, and climate assessment.
Before moving to Georgia, Chandler was director of the Center for Diversity and Community at the University of South Dakota, and she began her post-doctoral academic career as a dissertation fellow and lecturer in history at South Dakota State University.
She received her bachelor’s in political science from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and her master’s and doctorate in history from Rice University in Houston.
Provost Margaret McFadden said the new position expands and reimagines Colby’s DEI work.
Previously, those efforts were led through the Dean of the College area, which primarily supports students. The shift of overall DEI leadership to the Provost’s Office ensures those efforts will be administered across the College and benefit students, faculty, and staff alike, she said.
Chandler began in her new position Sept. 15. Among her first tasks will be learning about existing DEI efforts at Colby and then coordinating and expanding them. “We already have a huge number of people doing DEI work on our campus, but until now we have not had anybody looking across the institution as a whole to learn how we can do it better,” McFadden said.
‘Warm, thoughtful, and open’
Colby was attracted by Chandler’s intelligence, expertise, and engaging personality, McFadden said.
“She is a warm, thoughtful, and open person, and she is a person of great authenticity and integrity. She is very experienced in this work and has a vision of where we should be going,” McFadden said. “We were looking for someone who could lead across the College, who could support the faculty in their work and also work with students. Laura Renée is perfect because she has had previous roles in student affairs and knows what it is like to work with students in the DEI space, and she knows what it takes to be a successful faculty member, as well.”
Chandler said she was attracted to Colby because of its status as a national leader in the DEI arena, and she was eager to join a college where those efforts are embedded across the institution through the academic focus of the Provost’s Office.
“Colby is a model for other liberal arts institutions across the country, and the opportunity to work with a college of this caliber was very exciting to me,” Chandler said. “Colby is rather advanced in thinking about how to make DEI a part of everything the institution does.”
At Oglethorpe, Chandler served on the university’s senior-leadership team to implement DEI initiatives and chaired a school-wide DEI task force of students, faculty, and staff. Soon after she arrived at Oglethorpe, she also became interim vice president of student affairs and helped manage student life on campus for a period of several months.
At the University of South Dakota from 2018 to 2021, she served as director of the Center for Diversity and Community. It was her first leadership position after many years of teaching, and she described it as “some of the most fulfilling work of my career. You really get to know students in a different way when you are in an intercultural setting and doing co-curricular and programmatic work around diversity and inclusion.”
She arrived at the University of South Dakota as a faculty affiliate in the history department, following her work at South Dakota State University in Brookings, where she was assistant professor of history and first-year seminar coordinator. Chandler also engaged in community work as the founding member of the South Dakota Coalition for Justice and Equity and as a board member of LEAD South Dakota, which is focused on increasing the involvement of women in politics. She directed the South Dakota African American History Museum and served on the board of South Dakota Voices for Peace and the Brookings Human Rights Commission.
She has received numerous grants for her research and community activities, as well as awards and honors for her teaching and scholarship, including the Multicultural Center Outstanding Faculty Award from SDSU and the Patten Graduate Student Service Award at Rice University.
In addition to her academic accomplishments, Chandler has attained Certified Diversity Executive status from the Institute for Diversity Certification, which provides certification programs for DEI professionals and executives, and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) has licensed her as a qualified administrator.
“I am very glad to be at Colby and excited to begin working with the community,” she said. “My goal is to find out where people want to go and how I can help them get there.”
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