Diversity, inclusion and equity were three pillars Lawrence Burnley discussed during Wednesday’s open forum at Bovee University Center for the position of associate vice president for institutional diversity.
Burnley is one of two candidates for the position at Central Michigan University left unoccupied by Denise Green, who resigned to take the position of assistant vice president/vice provost of equity, diversity and inclusion at Ryerson University in Toronto.
In front of an audience of about 24 people, Burnley answered questions about his experience, skills and aspirations and gave feedback on the university’s current diversity program and steps he would take in making improvements.
“The institution has to be purposeful in understanding best and promising practices in the recruitment and retention of those (minority) communities,” Burnley said. “We have to study that; we have to assess our processes, and we have to develop the capacity, particularly those who have primary responsibilities, for retention and recruitment processes.”
He said the department website would be an area he would like to make significant changes to.
“How does your website convey and communicate your extraordinary commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion?” he asked. “You have great things going on here – extraordinary things – but, quite frankly, I had to dig a little bit to get to it. It’s like you’re not telling your story. That website is your face to the world, and you’re already fighting an uphill climb because of where you’ve located it.”
Lawrence holds the position of assistant vice president for diversity and intercultural relations at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. He has also been an assistant professor of history since 2010.
His resume also includes a four-year stand as Associate Dean for Multicultural Programs and Special Assistant To the Provost for Diversity Affairs at Messiah College in Grantham, Penn.
“I thought he did an outstanding job; I was very impressed,” Student Government Association President Justin Gawronski said. “It’s probably a bit intimidating to come to CMU, which has 27,000 students and a couple thousand faculty, and, not only come here and be willing to talk about changes he would make, but really have some concrete ideas.”
Gawronski said he was pleased Burnley focused on the LGBTQ community and women as much as he did on under-represented groups of ethnic and racial diversity, which he said is important to him, as well as the rest of the CMU community.
The other candidate is Interim Associate Vice President for Institutional Diversity Traci Guinn. She held her open forum Tuesday.
“It’s hard to compare (the two candidates),” Gawronski said. “Traci has been at this university for a very long time and has some very good ideas. Quite frankly, both candidates are extremely qualified, and both bring different experiences to the table.”