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Chief diversity officer candidate discusses accessibility, promoting diversity


Chief Diversity Officer candidate Shawna Patterson Stephens answers student questions via an online forum

Left: Brett John Houle, Right: Shawna Patterson Stephens

Shawna Patterson-Stephens made her case for why she deserves the position as the next chief diversity officer at Central Michigan University during an online forum.

Patterson-Stephens, one of three final candidates for the position, spoke at to two open forums on Feb. 23. 

During her student forum, Patterson-Stephens answered questions about her plans for her first 100 days in the position, promoting diversity programs and her thoughts on including diversity, equity and inclusion into courses.

Patterson-Stephens, originally from Detroit, is a CMU alumna. She currently works as associate vice chancellor of student affairs and director of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I just think that it would be a great honor to be able to give back to the community that fed so much into me,” Patterson-Stephens said. “I think that this role and the opportunity to work with so many different community members lends itself to innovation and creation in a way that is exciting to me.”

Patterson-Stephens wants to be accessible to students and have a thorough understanding of student’s experiences.

She wants to understand experiences in dorms, curriculums, student services, leadership opportunities and more, Stephens said.

“I also would hope to make sure that I'm a visible presence,” Patterson-Stephens said. “I want people to know who I am because I really value understanding who people are and I'm really relationship centered and focused.”

The forums for the other two candidates will take place on Feb. 24 and 25 at 2 p.m. for faculty and 4 p.m. for students. 

The forums can be accessed on the President’s office website and questions for the candidates can be submitted via an online form or through the chat box during the event.