North Central College appoints first chief diversity officer
North Central College has appointed its first chief diversity officer to help develop a vision and offer centralized oversight of equity and inclusion initiatives launched on the Naperville campus.
Chosen for the role is Rebecca Gordon, assistant vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion, who has been integral in implementing nondiscrimination and anti-racism programs, policies and curriculum, college leaders say.
The new title gives Gordon a seat on the president's cabinet, bringing a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion to the institution's top-level decisions.
"My overarching goal is to address systemic barriers experienced by Black and other minoritized students, faculty and staff through systemic and cultural changes," Gordon said.
"Part of that is educating our community about internalized '-isms,' the assumption of white supremacy, and how those internalized messages -- even if they are not consciously endorsed -- can be expressed through micro-aggressive statements and behaviors."
Gordon, who identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronoun "R," brings years of expertise to the position, starting with personal experience as a member of the Latine and LGBTQIA+ communities. Starting a career at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Gordon served as a psychologist, an instructor, the director of the Women's Leadership and Resource Center, and the executive associate director and Title IX coordinator in the Office of Access and Equity.
Since joining North Central in 2016 as the college's first full-time Title IX coordinator, officials said, Gordon has served on a diversity, equity and inclusion task force; created a DEI website; expanded DEI infrastructure; and created training for student-athletes and curriculum for first-year and transfer students.
Gordon also helped launch a campus climate survey and student focus groups, the feedback from which will "define my priorities and the work that the college needs to embark on this upcoming year."
"There will be things that will be difficult to hear but will serve as the catalyst for changing what the college is not doing well in regards to creating an inclusive community of higher education," Gordon said.
College leaders also will need to support and amplify the initiatives that have successfully created a sense of belonging for campus community members, Gordon said.
"A person with expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion has to have a seat at the table in order for whole scale cultural change to occur."
In a statement, North Central President Troy Hammond said Gordon's "valuable experience" will help guide the college's work at the cabinet level, where he is assisted by campus administrators in various specialties. Gordon's new role and membership on the cabinet took effect last month.
"As chief diversity officer, Rebecca will help leverage best practices to promote an equitable campus culture in which minoritized students, faculty and staff are fully seen, heard and included," Hammond said.