Photo caption: Dr. Warren Anderson is leaving UW-Eau Claire to become the UW System's senior equity, diversity and inclusion officer.
The framework is in place for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to become a model for the entire UW System on how to deal with issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, says Dr. Warren Anderson, UW-Eau Claire’s vice chancellor for EDI and Student Affairs.
“I think where we are right now is at the beginning,” Anderson says of EDI efforts at UW-Eau Claire. “There are tremendous amounts of work to do. As we proceed with development of a strategic plan and a number of things being put in place, there will be great things to come from this division.”
Anderson is leaving UW-Eau Claire on Dec. 11 to become the UW System’s senior equity, diversity and inclusion officer, where he will work with system leaders and individual campuses to build an infrastructure for expansion of EDI initiatives throughout the state.
Anderson applauds the commitment of individual UW System schools, but also sees an opportunity to provide a comprehensive plan to tackle EDI issues across the entire state higher education system.
“The UW System has really taken a strong stand to say EDI is a centerpiece for the work we do at the 13 universities,” Anderson says. “My role is to provide an additional resource. I don’t want to tell campuses what to do; I will be a resource to assist them.”
UW System interim president Tommy Thompson praised Anderson for his work.
“Warren is a seasoned higher education professional with broad experience leading student affairs and equity-and-inclusion-related initiatives at multiple institutions,” Thompson says. “We are excited to welcome him as a key leader in this important position.”
Anderson came to UW-Eau Claire in December 2019 from Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania to take a position that he says closely aligned with his experience in EDI and student affairs.
When Anderson arrived on campus, UW-Eau Claire was dealing with an incident involving a racist social media post posted by some students. Anderson embraced a recommendation from the Rapid Action Task Force created after the racist incident and launched the Center for EDI Training, Development and Education for employees and students, an effort led by Jodi Thesing-Ritter, UW-Eau Claire’s executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Teresa O’Halloran, UW-Eau Claire’s executive director for institutional equity and compliance and Title IX coordinator, credits Anderson for following through on that task force recommendation and another to establish the Center for Racial and Restorative Justice. The center kicked off this fall with the “Racing Toward Justice” speaker series with plans next year to integrate restorative justice into campus practices.
“I think Warren’s knowledge of EDI best practices and the administrative experience he brought were key to his success,” O’Halloran says.
Anderson is “truly a transparent servant leader,” says LaRue Pierce, UW-Eau Claire’s dean of students.
“In the short time he has been at UWEC he has reaffirmed the university’s commitment to EDI and challenged individuals to live up to the university’s EDI goals,” Pierce says of Anderson. “He has worked within the EDI framework to position the university to become a leader in EDI training and racial and restorative justice.”
Dang Yang, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, praised Anderson for his work at the university and his efforts to grow a coalition of EDI stakeholders in the community.
“I learned a lot under Warren’s leadership and I’m going to miss his openness and honesty with us,” Yang says. “He gave us room to grow and innovate and that really strengthened our commitment to creating long-lasting, equitable outcomes through our daily work.”
Those who worked with Anderson said his people-driven leadership style helped develop COVID-19 policies during the pandemic. Anderson led the rapid-result testing protocol efforts on campus where nearly 28,000 antigen tests were administered to UW-Eau Claire students by Dec. 9.
“We did a tremendous job as an institution,” Anderson says of the pandemic response. “It took everyone’s effort to make sure we could keep a safe environment for students. It was key to make sure all the people on my team were in a safe environment as well.”
Anderson admits that EDI progress at UW-Eau Claire was slowed by COVID-19 because his staff was deployed to respond to the pandemic. But he’s proud of what he and his staff accomplished in his year in Eau Claire.
Anderson had praise for Chancellor James Schmidt and his administrative staff for being advocates for a safe community at UW-Eau Claire, but he said the EDI efforts must continue.
“At UW-Eau Claire, we want to cultivate a system where students of color feel safe,” Anderson says. “Populations are becoming more and more diverse; I think you are going to see students of color applying more across the system.”