This August, we welcomed Dr. Jeanne Arnold to our campus as Gettysburg College’s Chief Diversity Officer. Dr. Arnold joins us from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where she served for seven years as their Vice President for Inclusion and Equity. Prior to her appointment at Grand Valley State, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs from 2003 to 2007, and as Director of the African American Resource Center from 1995 to 2003. She holds a Masters in Social Work and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.
I sat down with Jeanne to ask her about her first few weeks at the College and her plans for Gettysburg as our Chief Diversity Officer.
Janet: The role of a Chief Diversity Officer is a relatively new one in higher education. What do you enjoy most about this role?
Jeanne: I enjoy collaborating with others to help change organizational cultures so that they are more responsive and welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds—particularly those from populations underrepresented in higher education. I also like to build and enhance infrastructures (processes, protocols, policies, etc.) that support inclusion. First and foremost, I’m trained as a social worker, and social workers thrive on being change agents.
Janet: What excites or inspires you about taking on this role at Gettysburg College, in particular?
Jeanne: I’m excited about doing this work at Gettysburg because the College already holds high key values that are important to me both personally and professionally. The concepts of service, social justice, and the worth and dignity of all people are also core values deeply embedded in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics. These shared values give us a great foundation or common understanding to build on for our inclusion work.
Janet: What are some of your priorities for the fall semester?
Jeanne: I plan to meet with every faculty member and as many staff, students, and administrators as possible. I want to learn more about their experiences at Gettysburg College, and to gather ideas for goals and initiatives to be included in our first campus diversity strategic plan. A draft of the plan should be ready for distribution back to the campus community for comment early in the spring semester. I will also work with the College’s Diversity Commission and others to develop a process for the next campus climate study.
Janet: How soon can we expect to see positive change or to accomplish our diversity and inclusion goals?
Jeanne: Organizational change is described in the literature as a multi-year process (Kezar, 2001). While that fits with my prior experience, it doesn’t mean that incremental changes can’t take place along the way. We’re fortunate to have a set of recommendations from Gettysburg’s 2013 Diversity Commission report that I can get started on right away. Other necessary changes will be identified through the diversity strategic plan and from the results of a forthcoming campus climate study. The pace of change will also be guided by the fact that Diversity and Inclusion is a two-person office and will rely heavily on the availability of collaborators from across the campus to meet our goals. I’ve had some good conversations already, and am looking forward to collaborating with various individuals and groups across campus.
Janet: On a personal note, what do you like to do in your free time?
Jeanne: I’m really an introvert, so I enjoy my quiet time and reading. I do like to go to the movies from time to time, and in the summer I love going to the beach. Most of my free time is actually spent hanging out with family and friends or working with my sorority, which I’ve been active in since my junior year at Penn State. I did pull myself way out of my comfort zone last year though by taking ballroom dance lessons. That was one of the things on my bucket list.
Janet: Any last thoughts or reflections?
Jeanne: I’m grateful for this opportunity to provide leadership for Gettysburg College’s diversity and inclusion efforts. I know that we can accomplish our goals by working together as a community.