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Campus equity veteran named director of Multicultural Student Services

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Caitlin Mai Chong Lee, a longtime campus equal opportunity specialist and community advocate, will lead the Multicultural Student Services unit that was created with the merger of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Blugold Beginnings. (Photo by Shane Opatz)

The newly merged Multicultural Student Services unit at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has announced its inaugural director, longtime campus equal opportunity specialist and community advocate Caitlin Mai Chong Lee.

Lee, a 2003 political science and world politics alumna, has spent the last two decades working as an equal opportunity program specialist in UW-Eau Claire's Affirmative Action Office, while also assuming continual leadership roles in campus and community equity and diversity initiatives and programs.

As director, Lee will lead the MSS unit that was created with the merger of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Blugold Beginnings. Along with her deep roots in the community and strong record of EDI advocacy and support, Lee’s alumni status gives her unique perspective in the development and implementation of programming and services in the MSS unit.

“As a Blugold graduate, I utilized the services of this office, then known as OMA, the Office of Multicultural Affairs,” Lee says. “These are vital services on campus, work that engages people across campus to support success for students of color. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to the support system that was fundamental in my own student success.”

“My job now will be elevating that work and bringing the needs of students to the forefront, facilitating the conversations that will help our students be successful.”

Lee’s professional profile reads, in part:

“I have worked in higher education as a workforce diversity and compliance professional for over 20 years, including serving as a content expert on EDI campus initiatives. My experiences have taught me to be a strong advocate for the advancement and inclusion of employees and students from historically underrepresented populations.”

Teresa O’Halloran, UW-Eau Claire director of diversity and inclusion and campus affirmative action officer, knows that her longtime colleague will provide the needed insight and leadership at the helm of MSS.

“Caitlin is ready for this campus leadership role, and as a university we are lucky to retain her skill and expertise,” O’Halloran says. “She is a highly competent EDI practitioner, well connected with the national, regional and local communities. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her towards campus EDI goals.”     

A few career highlights positioning Lee as the top candidate for the director position include:

  • Served on EDISA Strategic Plan Committee, UWEC, 2020-21.
  • Co-founded and chaired the Employee of Color Resource Group, UWEC, 2021.
  • Co-founded and chaired the Hmong Women Summit: The Authenticity Project, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
  • Co-chair, Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus, June 2021-present.
  • Committee member, Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD) Equity Steering Committee, August 2021-present.
  • Committee member, ECASD Family Advisory Committee, August 2020-present.
  • Task force member, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity Inclusion Task Force, September 2017-present.
  • Co-lead of multiple domestic and international cultural immersion programs for Blugold students.

Lee also has earned the following awards and distinctions:

  • Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals, Women Who Inspire Award, May 2022.
  • Uniting Bridges, Beloved Community Leadership Award, January 2020.
  • UW-Eau Claire Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award, UW System, April 2010.

Angela Pittman-Taylor, a fellow UW-Eau Claire alumna and co-founder of the Blugold Alumni of Color Network, is ready to engage alumni with the new operations of the MSS unit and is pleased with the selection of Lee in the director role.

“Caitlin is a great fit for this role,” Pittman Taylor says. “We look forward to continuing to work with her and her talented MSS colleagues as part of our ongoing efforts to support students of color and help advance EDI strategies at UWEC.”  

Lee is preparing to “hit the ground running,” kicking off the academic year with the traditional Welcome Back Picnic and moving right into the cultural heritage celebrations with LatinX/Hispanic Heritage Month in September.

“The flagship event every fall is the Welcome Back Picnic, and this year we’re going to just make a slight change, bumping it up to midday, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 8 out on the Chippewa Lounge,” Lee says, indicating that she hopes the earlier time will increase attendance by faculty and staff who can stop by the food trucks and music between classes.

“New students, returning students, faculty and staff of color can all gather and connect at this event. It’s happening like it does every year — a social event and reminder that everyone is here to support one another, a legacy of this unit that remains the same.”