Oglethorpe University has named Laura Renée Chandler, PhD as its first Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a member of the senior administrative leadership team, effective March 5. Currently, Dr. Chandler is Director of the Center for Diversity and Community at University of South Dakota.
In this new role, Dr. Chandler will lead the strategic discussion advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across the university and, working with key campus leaders, will build, guide, and assess policies and practices that encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion as a means of improving Oglethorpe’s cultural climate and identity. This work will extend into programming, training and development, curricular initiatives, and recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students.
“Oglethorpe University is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as an institutional core value,” said President Nick Ladany. “Dr. Chandler brings a level of experience and expertise that will be invaluable as we work to ensure that our campus environment reflects this core value.”
“As a first-generation college graduate, I believe strongly in the power of education to improve our lives and transform the society in which we live,” said Dr. Chandler. “It is an exciting opportunity to join an institution that not only values creating transformative student experiences, but also is actively demonstrating an appreciation for diversity, equity and inclusion.”
In her most recent position as the Director of University of South Dakota’s Center for Diversity and Community, Dr. Chandler has led diversity and inclusiveness initiatives that serve the needs of the student body and support communities that have been historically underrepresented. While there, she has been a member of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusiveness and has directed efforts to build a diverse and welcoming learning environment and community for students, to foster greater cultural understanding between majority and minority populations, and to partner with faculty, staff, and departments across campus to enhance the student experience and support retention.
Previously, Dr. Chandler was Assistant Professor of History at South Dakota State University, where she designed and taught courses in U.S. history, the civil rights movement, women’s history, African American Studies, and global citizenship and diversity. She also has developed and led initiatives focused on engaging students and community members in critical conversations on contemporary issues such as race relations, social justice, gender identity, and interpreting social protests in historical perspective.
Dr. Chandler is co-founder of the South Dakota Coalition for Justice and Equity, a community organization focused on creating more transparency and accountability in the South Dakota justice system. She also recently served as director of the South Dakota African American History Museum, and as a member of the Brookings Human Rights Commission and the boards of LEAD South Dakota and South Dakota Voices for Peace.
Dr. Chandler received her MA and PhD in History from Rice University in Houston, TX, and a BA in Political Science from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN.
The search committee for the position included faculty, staff, student, trustee and alumni representation: Dr. Kendra King Momon, professor of politics and task force chair; Richard Bakare ’03, Oglethorpe trustee and alumnus; Brian Coldren, registrar and assistant provost; Dr. Janelle Pham, assistant professor of sociology; Taylor Roberts ’21, president of the Student Government Association, Tanya Thompson, chief information officer; Dr. Matthew Wild, lecturer of core studies; and Dr. Katharine Zakos, assistant professor of communication studies.