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Dr. Tamara Johnson leaving for Adler University; search for vice chancellor launched

Dr. Tamara Johnson, vice chancellor for equity, diversity & inclusion and student affairs

Dr. Tamara Johnson

Dr. Tamara Johnson has announced she has accepted a position as vice president for diversity and inclusion at Adler University in Chicago. She has served UW-Eau Claire since May 2017 as the inaugural assistant chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and since August 2018 as vice chancellor for EDI and student affairs. She will continue to serve UW-Eau Claire through June 7.

“Dr. Johnson has been instrumental in advancing our universitywide commitment to equity, greater diversity and creation of a more inclusive campus community,” said Chancellor James Schmidt. “We are a stronger and better university thanks to her passionate advocacy for our underrepresented students and her focused leadership in fulfilling our EDI plan.

“While Dr. Johnson will be greatly missed, we wish her much success as she returns to her native Chicago and as she continues to serve students and her profession.”

In her new position at Adler University, Johnson will continue her EDI work.

“As the vice president for diversity and inclusion position at Adler University I will also hold a faculty appointment and create a Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Chicago, where my closest family members and friends reside,” Johnson said. “Since Adler is a professional school of psychology, my training as a psychologist fits perfectly with the skills I have gained at UW-Eau Claire and will allow me to effectively lead their institutional efforts to advance social justice.

“It was especially difficult to make the decision to leave UW-Eau Claire because of the relationships I’ve developed with students, faculty and staff and all we’ve been able to achieve together. I will forever be indebted to UW-Eau Claire for affording me the opportunity to serve the campus community.”

Johnson was appointed as UW-Eau Claire’s first assistant chancellor for EDI in 2017, bringing together units serving underrepresented students. A year later, she assisted the chancellor in forming a new division that also included Student Affairs. 

Johnson exemplified the student-focused mission of the university, working closely with students —especially those from underrepresented or marginalized communities — to identify their concerns, to advocate for them and to support their efforts for change. A significant project was the opening of a new Black Cultural Center, the primary request from the Black Student Alliance, that she was able to champion.

“Dr. Johnson was a voice for us,” said Ariyana Dryden, a UW-Eau Claire sophomore and special education major who also served as an intern for Johnson. “She was honest and genuine with students and did everything she could to make sure that our needs were met. She has been such an empowering and impactful woman for me personally, but also for so many students.

“Even in just the two short years, she has left a legacy at UW-Eau Claire and it will be hard to fill her shoes. Dr. Johnson will be missed tremendously.”

Schmidt recognized Johnson for her leadership in helping the university complete more than two-thirds of the items in its EDI Implementation Plan. Accomplishments during her tenure included:

  • Incorporation of employee contributions to EDI in all performance evaluations.
  • Required online diversity training for all UW-Eau Claire employees, with plans to launch the online training for all students this fall.
  • An ongoing EDI professional development series for university employees which includes the opportunity to earn a diversity certificate.
  • Hiring a multicultural affairs director and an EDI program director.
  • Launching a quarterly EDI newsletter.
  • Leading the implementation of a number of new campuswide educational and celebratory EDI programs and events, including the Blugold Dialogues series and heritage month celebrations hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs; an annual Faculty and Staff of Color Welcome Lunch, co-sponsored with the Office of the Provost; an annual on-campus Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration; and the veteran’s recognition program planned by the Office of Affirmative Action.
  • New campus light pole banners that reflect a diversity of identities, spearheaded by the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
  • Recognition of students, faculty, staff and administrators who have significantly contributed to university EDI efforts through the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award.
  • Continuing efforts to increase the diversity of UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff.

Initiatives launching this spring under Johnson’s leadership include a student climate survey, EDI supervisory training sessions and monthly EDI training sessions for executive staff members.

“Dr. Johnson has led a stunning range of campus projects and initiatives that have made UWEC a better place to work and teach,” said Dr. Marcus McEllistrem, director of the materials science and engineering program. “I greatly appreciate and admire her compassion, her clarity of thought, and her eloquence in discussing and describing how discrimination harms us all. I will miss working with her.”

Acknowledging the importance of continuing without interruption the initiatives begun under Johnson’s leadership, Schmidt will oversee UW-Eau Claire's EDI and Student Affairs division after June 7 until a national vice chancellor search is completed.

Search committee to be formed

After consultation with the chair of the University Senate, Chancellor Schmidt has begun the process of forming a search and screen committee. Faculty, staff and students interested in serving on the search committee should submit their names to the relevant shared governance contact listed below. Nominations for the search committee are due by Wednesday, March 20. The committee will be formed in April.

The following are contacts for faculty, staff and students interested in serving on the vice chancellor search committee:

Students should submit nominations to:

  • Branden Yates, Student Body President

University staff should submit nominations to:

  • Kelly Holzer, Chair, University Staff Council

Faculty, instructional academic staff, and administrative and professional academic staff should submit nominations to a member of the University-Wide Nominating Committee:

  • Jyl Kelley, Art & Design
  • Phil Huelsbeck, Continuing Education
  • Abby Hemmerich, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Vicky Samelson, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Linda Pratt, Housing and Residence Life
  • Norah Airth-Kindree, Nursing
  • Jodi Thesing-Ritter, EDI