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Spears named Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

President Lee Pelton announced today that Dr. Sylvia Spears has been named Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Currently Assistant Vice President for Academic Initiatives at New England College, Spears will begin her Emerson career on August 1, 2012.

“Sylvia brings to this position 20 years of experience in higher education and a substantial background in providing leadership for programs related to diversity, educational and workplace equity, community building, and inclusion,” President Pelton said. “She also has a depth of experience in student affairs as well as academic affairs, so we are very excited to have attracted her to Emerson,” he added.

Sylvia Spears is Emerson's new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.

As the chief diversity and inclusion officer for the College, Spears will develop and implement programs and policies that reflect and enhance the College’s mission while extending its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and civility. She will lead efforts to achieve the College’s goals related to faculty and staff hiring and retention; curricular innovation; student recruitment and success; campus climate; external relationships and partnerships; and building a stronger campus community.

In addition to directing the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Spears also will be a member of the President’s Council and will chair Emerson’s Diversity Council.
“I am thrilled to join the Emerson community as we work to expand the College’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and civility,” Spears said. “I believe Emerson is uniquely poised to innovate in this area and I look forward to working with members of the community on this very important work,” she said.

Before joining New England College, Spears spent more than four years at Dartmouth College in a variety of roles of increasing responsibility.

She began her Dartmouth service in 2007 as Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership (OPAL), providing administrative, financial, and supervisory oversight of numerous departments including the Center for Women and Gender, the Office of Asian and Asian-American Advising, the Office of Black Student Advising, International Student Programs, the Office of Latino/a Advising, the Office of LGBT Advising, and the Native American Program. In 2008–09, she was appointed Acting Senior Associate Dean of Dartmouth College, overseeing academic support services and serving as the Dean’s principal advisor on matters related to diversity and campus climate. The following year, she accepted the President’s offer to serve as Dean of Dartmouth College, an interim position that she held two years.

Between 1996 and 2007, Spears worked in a variety of capacities at the University of Rhode Island, including as an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies (2004–2007), and a lecturer in the same department (1999–2004), during which time she taught graduate and undergraduate courses. She also served for nearly two years as the Interim Affirmative Action Officer. She previously had held positions at Bryant College and with the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

Spears is a highly sought-after consultant and speaker. She is widely regarded as an effective champion for diversity, inclusion, and excellence in education. She holds a BA in Speech Communications, an MS in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus in student affairs, and a PhD in Education, all from the University of Rhode Island.

President Pelton thanked the Search Committee, which was chaired by Professor Mike Brown, and included Gloria Noronha-Peschau, Alexa Jackson, William Gilligan, MJ Knoll-Finn, Stanford Nance, Phillip Glenn, Diego Salazar, Ron Ludman, and Robbie McCauley.

In addition, he offered special thanks to Gloria Noronha-Peschau, who oversaw the the Office of Diversity and Inclusion since Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gwen Bates retired in the fall of 2011.

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