University Announces New Chief Diversity Officer
Nov 03, 2017 10:11AM ● Published by Emily Stevenson
Alphonso “Al” Atkins Jr. will become chief diversity officer and special assistant to the chancellor for equity and inclusion beginning Nov. 1. He replaces Dr. Warren Carson, who is retiring after 30 years at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Atkins was selected after the University conducted a nationwide search for candidates. He has more than 15 years of experience in higher education, during which time he has worked as a faculty scholar, administrator, and member of executive leadership, with the goal of helping campus communities build equitable environments.
“I am confident that Al will serve our university extremely well and am thrilled to have him as part of the senior administration for this institution,” Chancellor Brendan B. Kelly, Ph.D., said of Atkins.
Atkins, who was residing in Indianapolis, said he looks forward to being a part of the USC Upstate community.
“In driving down, I was able to get a real sense of the region itself, and really I’m excited about the growth opportunities in particular,” he said. “At USC Upstate, I think [the University] is built into the fabric of the region. Every other person I talk to seems to have some connection to the University, so that’s good to see. For a school that’s growing at the rate that it is, I think it will continue to grow along with the opportunities for this region.”
One of his goals, he said, is to raise awareness of inclusion as a process at all levels of the University.
“It’s important that we have diversity and inclusion embedded into all of our organizational practices,” he said. “My goal is just to help people improve their own processes, their workflow, their understanding, basically, that inclusion really is something that is active and can be incorporated into the work that we do to become an excellent university.”
Atkins received a juris doctorate from Indiana University McKinney School of Law in 2007, and is a licensed attorney. His current research and practice interests include “intra-professional ethics, social justice, negotiation of cultural identity and building equitable frameworks in complex organizations.”
He also has a Master of Arts in theatre arts/communication studies from Minnesota State University, a cook certification from Le Cordon Bleu North America, and a Bachelor of Science in speech communication from Northwest Missouri State University.
In academia, Atkins most-recently was an administrator at the Community College of Rhode Island, where he was the director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator. Prior to that, he was at Ivy Tech Community College—Central Indiana, where he was regional diversity officer, director of student conduct and community standards, professor of communication studies/humanities, and faculty fellow-Center for Community and Culture Studies. From 200-2008, he was trustees lecturer—School of Liberal Arts—communication at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Carson, who chaired the candidate search, said the search committee reviewed several candidates, finally winnowing it down to three finalists – including Atkins -- who were interviewed in person.