LaVar Charleston named next UW-Madison Diversity Director


Charleston, a clinical professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, also experienced the campus as a student – he received his Masters and PhD at UW-Madison. Photo: Bryce Richter

LaVar Charleston, an innovative leader and accomplished researcher with nearly two decades of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education, has been appointed to lead the diversity and inclusion efforts of the ‘University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Charleston will serve as the university’s head of diversity, also holding the titles of Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, Vice-President and Elzie Higginbottom Director of Division of Diversity, Equity and Academic Success (DDEEA). It will start on August 2.

“This is a role of the utmost importance as we continue to work for a day when every member of our university community can thrive, without any obstacle to success,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Dr. Charleston fully understands the challenges ahead and brings a comprehensive and impressive set of skills to meet them. I am delighted to see where his leadership is taking us.

Watch a video message from Dr Charleston

Charleston is currently the Senior Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UW-Madison’s School of Education, where he is a Clinical Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate. of the department in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

“It is with gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility that I take on this new role,” says Charleston. “UW-Madison means so much to me – this is where I grew up as an academic, researcher and administrator. I want every member of the campus community to feel welcome, accepted and supported here.

In his new role, Charleston will provide overall leadership for the university’s efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and successful learning and working environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and other partners of the university. He will work in partnership with schools, colleges and other administrative units across the campus while overseeing the units that make up the DDEEA.

About the DDEEA

Students in the Posse program pose around the statue of Bucky on Lake Mendota.

Students in the Posse program pose around the statue of Bucky on Lake Mendota. The program is one of six pre-university, recruiting and retention programs managed by the division.

The Diversity, Equity and Academic Success Division strives to ensure an inclusive environment that encompasses not only race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, disability status, religion and national origin, but also a diversity of educational heritages and human experiences from a wide range of perspectives and cultural backgrounds.

The Division’s preschool, recruitment and retention efforts include:

The Division’s service units are:

Charleston will be part of the university’s leadership teams, including the Chancellor’s Executive Committee and Provost’s Executive Group.

Charleston says he will approach his new role with a keen awareness of how racial and social unrest and a pandemic have made the past two years very difficult for many members of the campus community, especially students and others from across the campus. BIPOC (Blacks, Aboriginals and people from communities of color).

“These are difficult and challenging times, but they are also encouraging times because there is renewed energy on our campus,” he says. “We have more allies than we have had in recent times, and there is a renewed sense of ownership and responsibility when it comes to anti-racist practices and ensuring our environments are inclusive. . “

Charleston says her job will be to “look under the hood” and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“For people who work in diversity, we’ve been very busy, but that’s a good thing,” he says. “We are in the process of synthesizing our role in shaping culture and putting in place the structures that need to be in place for everyone to feel in their place. There are so many groups on campus doing this work, and everyone from the chancellor and provost to our deans are making a concerted effort around diversity and inclusion. It is a time of hope.

Charleston received a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Ball State University in 2002. He arrived at UW-Madison in 2005 as the site coordinator for the Pre-University Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE).

Other positions at UW-Madison followed, including a long affiliation with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, where he helped found Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Lab (Wei LAB). He has held numerous positions at Wei LAB, including that of Deputy Director and Coordinator of the Research and Evaluation Division. Charleston’s research focuses on diversity, access, and inclusion in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). He is the author or co-author of 50 manuscripts, including the book “Advancing Equity and Diversity in Student Affairs”.

From 2017 to 2019, Charleston served as the First Assistant Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Engagement and Student Success at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He returned to UW-Madison in 2019 to become the Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Education.

Charleston says he wants students to feel comfortable finding themselves fully in the spaces they inhabit. He intends to lead by example.

“What people need to know about me is that I’m a pure and tough, born and raised Detroit resident,” he says. “A lot of who I am comes from my parents, my grandmother and my siblings and the blue collar values ​​they instilled in me. They helped me prepare for this moment.

Charleston played Division I football and sings in Kinfolk, a local soul and R&B group. He enjoys boating, kayaking, biking and motorcycling. His wife, Sherri Ann Charleston, is his “No. 1 colleague and thinking partner, ”he says. She is responsible for diversity and inclusion at Harvard University.

Cheryl Gittens has been Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of Diversity since July 2020, having served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at DDEEA.

“Dr. Gittens has done an outstanding job leading our diversity and inclusion efforts through an incredibly difficult and challenging time in our company and on our campus,” said Rector Karl Scholz. “We are in a more challenging position. strong thanks to his commitment to this institution, and I wish to express my deep gratitude for his work over the past year. ”

Jerlando FL Jackson chaired the 14-member search and screen committee. He is Vilas Professor of Higher Education Emeritus, Director of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, and Director and Chief Researcher of Wei LAB.

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