New Structure, Staff in Office of Diversity and Inclusion Strengthen Commitment

Started as a team of three employees in 2015, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) at Pitt is growing and has been reorganized to strengthen the commitment to diversity in its many forms.

ODI was established to help foster and sustain a University-wide culture that understands that diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to Pitt’s mission. And while the vision of ODI remains the same, the reorganization signals a move toward a “more strategic and systematic approach” — one that focuses on education and serving campus more holistically.

“Creating a culture that is more inclusive and more diverse is our ultimate goal. And there is a real need for more proactive initiatives, services, connections and education across campus,” said Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Kathy Humphrey. “With the restructuring, we’re better positioning ODI to have a greater impact at Pitt moving forward — allowing for more focused, proactive work.” 

“We thought deliberately and strategically on how to design the ODI functions to expand what has been successful, and at the same time, create a platform for greater inclusion, education and prevention efforts. We believe that this new structure will provide that opportunity,” said Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Pam Connelly. Connelly joined the University in 2002 as an associate general counsel and has led ODI since its creation.

The restructuring, which went into effect Oct. 1, includes the following changes:

Disabilities Resources and Services moves into ODI

The Office of Disability Resources and Services (DRS) is now under the umbrella of ODI. Previously, the office was housed within the Division of Student Affairs.

“Historically, DRS was focused on accommodations for students. While faculty and staff could request accommodations from DRS, too, it was much less common,” said Connelly. 

Moving DRS into ODI enables us “to focus holistically on serving people on campus with disabilities, and that includes faculty and staff,” said Connelly. 

“As our scope of services continues to evolve, the transition to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will allow us to better coordinate University-wide initiatives for students, faculty, staff and visitors with disabilities,” said Leigh Culley, director of DRS. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity and will continue to closely collaborate with our colleagues in the Division of Student Affairs, as they are key partners in offering a positive educational experience.”

The DRS offices and staff will remain in the William Pitt Union, while the rest of the ODI team will stay in their current location in Webster Hall.

A March 2019 story about the Office of Disability Resources and Services explains more about how the office works to make accommodations for faculty and staff with needs. Read more in the University Times.

Two divisions

For the past four years, ODI has been composed of three units: the Office of Institutional Equity, the Title IX Office and the digital accessibility initiative. 

The new reorganization creates two divisions: Inclusion and Access along with Civil Rights and Title IX. 

“Establishing two divisions creates a greater clarity of roles moving forward as we make prevention education a key focus,” said Connelly, adding that ODI educated 3,500 employees on sexual misconduct prevention, and engaged 2,750 people in educational sessions on diversity and inclusion in the 2018-2019 academic year. (Read more about the efforts of ODI in its annual report.)

No positions will be eliminated as a result of the restructure. In fact, additional roles are being created by the reorganization, Connelly said.

Inclusion and Access 

The Division of Inclusion and Access will be led by an associate vice chancellor of inclusion, a new position that is currently undergoing a national search. Serving as a member of the ODI leadership team, the new leader will work with stakeholders across all of Pitt’s campuses to help foster and sustain a culture centered around equity, diversity and inclusion and play a crucial role in ramping up ODI’s education initiatives. 

Reporting to the new AVC of inclusion will be the following units: institutional equity, multicultural and diversity programming and disability resources and accessibility. 

Civil Rights and Title IX 

The Division of Civil Rights and Title IX will be led by another newly created position, filled by an experienced and familiar face: Katie Pope is moving into the role of associate vice chancellor for civil rights and Title IX. Pope has served as Pitt’s Title IX coordinator since 2015 and will retain her Title IX coordinator role in her new AVC capacity. 

This division’s scope will be expanded to address other types of discrimination beyond sexual misconduct. A civil rights investigator will also join the team.

Additionally, the Division of Civil Rights and Title IX will lead the efforts related to the prevention of sexual or gender-based misconduct, including discrimination, harassment and assault on campus.