New VP Barrett to initiate more diversity efforts

Dr. Kimberly Barrett
Photo courtesy of Communications

In August, Kimberly Barrett, Ph.D., accepted the position as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty. In her letter to the Lawrence community, Barrett stated, “The past year was a turbulent one that exposed the lingering pain of some while causing new anguish for others. But, as is the case in many periods of disruption, we have the opportunity to come together with new awareness to create a stronger institution and community.”

This year, Barrett will hold listening sessions, with more information coming on LU Insider. The focus of these sessions will be to hear students’ thoughts and ideas for improvement of the campus climate and to understand how people experience Lawrence. These sessions will be open to students, faculty and staff.

Barrett will also organize small group dialogues with members of the general Appleton community and meet with the local police force in order to build trust and address challenges that exist in the university’s relationship with the city. Serving as a liaison with the off-campus community is a critical point of leadership for Barrett.

Barrett is willing to come and talk to different groups and houses on campus on how they can best deal with issues of inclusivity and diversity.

Barrett says that “inclusivity is lifelong and developmental… not one thing or one event.” As a campus, we need to examine the specific cases and develop ways of dealing with those issues. “Given the human scale of Lawrence, we have a unique opportunity here,” Barrett says. She hopes to work on creating holistic changes rooted in the work already being accomplished on campus.

As a starting point for the dialogue of inclusivity, Barrett recommends reading the book “Blind Spot,” “to help people understand how biases influence our behavior.”