Spring 2015

Tufts’ New Chief Diversity Officer

Among his priorities is creating a deeper sense of unity among campuses

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“Tufts is genuinely concerned about these issues and has the capacity to really start thinking about what it means to create an affirming, welcoming campus for everybody,” says Mark Brimhall-Vargas. Photo: Toby Jorrin

When Mark Brimhall-Vargas arrived at Tufts this spring to become the university’s chief diversity officer, it was a natural step in a career that has been devoted to the themes of diversity, inclusion and social justice.

“I’ve been working on these issues my whole life,” said Brimhall-Vargas, who had been the deputy chief diversity officer at the University of Maryland at College Park since 2013. At Tufts, he says, “I feel like I’m walking into an institution that has done its homework.”

The hiring of a chief diversity officer was among the recommendations contained in the final report of Tufts’ Council on Diversity. The university’s strategic plan, Tufts: The Next 10 Years, also sets the goal of creating a more welcoming environment on all three campuses.

“In the strategic plan, we state emphatically that Tufts will demonstrate an unprecedented institutional commitment to diversity, inclusion and cultural competency over the next decade,” Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco said. “I am confident that Mark Brimhall-Vargas will lead us in advancing that important goal by building bridges and fostering creative relationships across the university.”

“I feel like I’m walking into an institution that has done its homework.”

Brimhall-Vargas, who is also an associate provost, said he is impressed with the groundwork that has been laid by the diversity council, which Monaco chaired, as well as the strategic plan. “This is what attracted me to Tufts,” Brimhall-Vargas says.

“The president and [Provost David Harris] want to do something that makes Tufts even greater, and they are willing to put ambitious goals out there,” Brimhall-Vargas said. “What that tells me is that I need to be equally ambitious and bold—and that the campus is ready for that.”

Brimhall-Vargas held a number of positions in Maryland’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion since 1997, and has taught intergroup dialogue and conflict resolution in several higher education settings. He holds a doctorate from the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland at College Park, a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an undergraduate degree from Pomona College.

Among his first priorities, Brimhall-Vargas said, will be to create a deeper sense of unity among the Medford/Somerville, Boston and Grafton campuses; to examine faculty recruitment and retention and to support Tufts’ goal of becoming accessible to more students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. He said he also will strive to make both undergraduate and graduate students feel included in the workings
of the university. —Helene Ragovin

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