On July 1st, 2016, Dr. Jacqueline Caldwell became TU’s first Vice President for Diversity and Engagement. Caldwell began at TU as a professor in the College of Law in 2006, eventually working in the Office of the President up to her new VP position and her continued role as the Director for the Presidential Scholars program.
The process behind creating the position, Caldwell explained, was initiated by a year-long study on student and faculty recruitment by the Student Affairs Committee within Faculty Senate. From the study, the Committee created a resolution that was sent to President Upham recommending that the University create the position that Caldwell would eventually fill.
Caldwell stressed, however, that this resolution was not the beginning of TU’s interest in diversity. “There had been quite a few conversations going on across the campus on diversity,” she notes, with University faculty through committees and retreats, as well as events put on by student organizations and individual student opinions. Even though the conversations have been happening, Caldwell feels that “creating an office brings a level of intention to the process,” in addition to allowing TU to “send the message that [diversity] is a strategic priority for the University.”
As for Caldwell herself, she has been consistently involved in TU’s diversity efforts through the Equal Access and Opportunity Commision and faculty recruitment, as well as being part of a multicultural panel for incoming students. “So when the resolution came up”, she explains, “it was sort of a natural progression that I would be interested in this position.”
Caldwell also spoke about diversity being one of TU’s core values, saying “at the center of our mission statement is that we can only accomplish our mission through educating men and women of diverse backgrounds and cultures.” In terms of her own work with faculty and students, she is “particularly heartened by the fact that people are positive about the mission.”
When the Student Affairs Committee recommended the creation of Caldwell’s position, they also recommended that a Diversity Action Plan should be created for the University. This Diversity Action Plan is being created by the Diversity Advisory Council, containing 15 subcommittees for topics like student and faculty recruitment, retention and campus climate, among others. These subcommittees include “people from all walks of life on the campus,” as Caldwell puts it, including students, faculty and staff, “to identify where we are… and based on those findings, make recommendations to improve upon that.” Caldwell notes that the creation of the Diversity Action Plan is “an ongoing process,” but is excited about its potential.
In the process of looking at where TU is and where improvements can be made, Caldwell stressed the importance of interacting with students and student organizations. She mentions working with larger groups like Student Association, as well as smaller student groups like TU’s branch of the National Society for Black Engineers, to collaborate with them and use her experiences and expertise to further the causes she believes in. She also makes a point of going to as many events as possible to make herself and her department more well-known by the student body. Recently, Caldwell attended and spoke at the TU Interfaith Tour, as well as serving on the panel for a recent town hall coordinated by Student Association’s Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee. Through these appearances, interacting with students and the continued creation and eventual implementation of the Diversity Action Plan, Caldwell looks to make the most of her position by personally and professionally advocating for an increased focus on diversity at TU.