San Diego Union-Tribune (Sunday)

DIAZ ACCEPTS POSITION AT UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

Ex-councilwom­an will focus on equity and diversity in new role

- BY JOE TASH

Former Escondido City Councilwom­an Olga Diaz, who opted not to run for re-election last year after serving 12 years in office, has accepted an executive position at the University of Wisconsin-eau Claire.

Her new title will be vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and student affairs, and she’ll begin work on June 14.

The move allows Diaz to build on her work at Palomar College, where for the past five and a half years she has served as director of student success and equity. Previously, she worked as director of employment services at Interfaith Community Services in North County and as a research analyst at Santa Clara University. She also owned and operated a coffeehous­e in downtown Escondido.

“I’m excited,” said Diaz, “but I’ll be leaving a place I love.”

UW-EAU Claire is part of the 13-campus University of Wisconsin system, with a student body of about 10,000. Diaz has strong family ties to the area, as her husband, retired Escondido police Lt. Neal Griffin, grew up in Eau Claire, and her father-in-law, James Phillip Griffin, was a philosophy professor and chair of the philosophy and religious studies department at UW-EAU Claire.

Diaz’s family owns a farmhouse in the area, and she has made many visits to Eau Claire and the university campus.

Among her duties at the new job will be helping the university recruit and retain students, faculty and staff to increase the diversity of the campus population, said Diaz. She’ll also be launching a Center for Racial and Restorativ­e Justice.

“The campus is so willing to try good things and new things and explore methods of self-improvemen­t,” Diaz said.

Diaz’s responsibi­lities will include oversight of the school’s Office of Multicultu­ral Affairs, which advises and mentors students, as well as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said Michael Carney, UW-EAU Claire’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Carney, who co-chaired the search committee for Diaz’s position, said, “She captured everything we wanted in our candidate in one person.”

During the interview process, Diaz was able to connect with a wide variety of groups on campus, from students and faculty, to her direct-reports, to deans and the chancellor’s executive team.

“Olga had the ability to connect with everyone, which is not typical,” Carney said.

Another thing that made Diaz stand out, said Carney, was her service on the Escondido City Council, which showed her ability to effectivel­y communicat­e with a broader constituen­cy. The campus needs that skill to foster community understand­ing of its commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity.

UW-EAU Claire is a predominan­tly White institutio­n in a predominan­tly White region of the state, but the school wants to increase representa­tion of minority groups that have a significan­t presence in the area, such as Latinos, Hmong people and Somalis, said Carney.

Currently, the school’s student population is about 87 percent White, and about 13 percent non-white, Carney said. The faculty is more diverse, with about 20 percent non-white.

“We’re making gains but it’s slow progress,” Carney said.

The school’s website describes the mission of its Division of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Student Affairs: “With a focus on creating and maintainin­g an accessible, inclusive and antiracist campus climate, this division seeks to dismantle all types of barriers, fostering growth and academic achievemen­t for every Blugold student.”

For now, Diaz said, she will be moving to Wisconsin while her husband remains in Escondido to allow the couple’s son to finish high school, with visits back and forth as much as possible. She’ll also continue a doctoral program she began this year at USC.

Once her son heads to college, she said, she and her husband will make Eau Claire their home base. The couple also has three grown daughters.

While she looks forward to her new adventure in the Midwest — she insists she can deal with the cold winter weather and the summer bugs — Diaz said, “I’m never going to forget Escondido. Most of my adult life has been spent here.”

 ??  ?? Olga Diaz
Olga Diaz
 ?? COURTESY PHOTO ?? Former Escondido City Councilwom­an Olga Diaz will begin her new job in June.
COURTESY PHOTO Former Escondido City Councilwom­an Olga Diaz will begin her new job in June.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA