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Conversation with VP for Diversity Mary Ontiveros

September 15, 2010

The official start date for the newly created Vice President for Diversity position at Colorado State University was July 1, 2010. Though there are long-standing efforts for recruiting, retaining, and supporting diversity on campus, the position was created to enhance and lead the University's diversity efforts. After much deliberation of four in-house candidates for the position, Mary Ontiveros, associate vice president for Enrollment and Access, became the part-time vice president for Diversity.

Diversity is a University-wide initiative

Mary Ontiveros, vice president for Diversity, also serves as associate vice president of Enrollment and Access where she provides oversight for the Access Center.

This position doesn’t come with the typical support personnel and departmental breakdown that most vice presidential positions oversee. Instead, the Vice President for Diversity position consists solely of an assistant and the vice president herself. Though there is not an official entity bidden to carry out the work of the Vice President for Diversity, diversity is a University-wide initiative that entails the support, teamwork, and enthusiasm of every person on campus.

With the 10th Annual University Diversity Conference, What the Recession Revealed, taking place next week, it is a great time to learn about diversity on campus and how you can make a difference. Below, Vice President for Diversity Ontiveros answers a few questions about diversity at Colorado State University.

Q: What does Diversity mean to you?

I think, over time, how one defines diversity has changed. There was a time when you would say “diversity” and what would come to mind is solely the inclusion of ethnic groups or racial groups that have been historically underrepresented. Generally on this campus that has meant Hispanic students, Black students, Asian students, and Native American students. Nowadays, people talk about diversity and certainly, in all the literature and things that I read and in having conversations, it is a much more inclusive term. It may include any individual who is perhaps underrepresented in a particular area. More than anything, diversity means inclusiveness in treating individuals with respect and dignity and assuring that you have an environment that allows for that to happen. It translates into ensuring that all people from a different race or religion, sexual orientation, with different ideas, or with different ways of viewing the world, are feeling comfortable. Today, diversity really is a much broader and inclusive term.

Q: What kinds of programs have you seen and created that have been influential in bringing a more diverse population to CSU? What do you think is critical in moving CSU forward?

I served for many years as the executive director of Admissions at Colorado State University. We introduced a variety of programs that intended to increase the numbers of diverse students on our campus. Some of those programs like Black Issues Forum and LDZ are still with us today. Now in working with the Access Center and serving as the architect of the Alliance Partnership Program, I believe I have come to understand how critical it is to collaborate, not only with individuals on this campus, but with communities and entities across the state and beyond. The only way we are going to make significant change take place is through collaborations and partnerships. I think the Alliance Partnership is an excellent example of how working together we can move everyone’s agenda forward.

Q: Colorado State University’s mission statement says “Inspired by its land-grant heritage, Colorado State University is committed to excellence, setting the standard for public research universities in teaching, research, service, and extension for the benefit of the citizens of Colorado, the United States, and the world.” How do think the Diversity Conference comes into play in meeting those goals?

The Diversity Conference is central to meeting the mission of the University by providing opportunities for individuals to learn different perspectives. If in fact we are going to be able to meet our mission of providing a benefit to the citizens of Colorado, we need to understand and learn from the citizens of Colorado.

It is ideal that the Conference takes place early in the academic year when new people are coming to campus with new ideas, who are experiencing the University for the first time. Offering the conference gives individuals a wonderful opportunity not only to hear about different perspectives, but to dialogue and to talk to people who are experts in these areas. The conference gives everyone a chance to broaden their perspectives. The conference is a safe place in which to voice various perspectives and celebrate differences. Hosting the Diversity Conference, and at such a critical time of year, is the first step in helping CSU fulfill its mission statement.

To make your contribution to diversity at Colorado State University, attend a session at the 2010 Diversity Conference. Visit www.diversity.colostate.edu to learn more about the schedule, sessions, and keynote speaker Ray Suarez.


Contact: Kira Maixner
E-mail: Kira.Maixner@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2297