Brandeis Selects Brimhall-Vargas as Its First Chief Diversity Officer

Mark Brimhall-Vargas
Courtesy Tufts University
Mark Brimhall-Vargas

Mark Brimhall-Vargas has been named the university’s first chief diversity officer (CDO) and vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, a position created to elevate and accelerate Brandeis’ 21st-century vision for inclusive excellence.

Brimhall-Vargas comes to Brandeis from Tufts University, where he served as CDO and associate provost. He begins his new position in January and reports directly to President Ron Liebowitz.

As CDO, Brimhall-Vargas will work closely with the president, provost, academic deans, faculty, students, trustees and staff to ensure that the goals of diversity and inclusion are embraced across the Brandeis campus. He will coordinate and advise on activities in departments and academic programs throughout the university to develop, integrate and articulate Brandeis’ commitments to a more diverse and inclusive community.

“Adding this key position to our management team reflects our commitment to fostering an academic and campus culture that lives up to our values of diversity and inclusion,” says President Liebowitz. “Brandeis was founded on the ideals of inclusiveness; it is a core value.”

Liebowitz notes that the university has instituted many activities over the recent past, including launching the Reaffirming and Accelerating Brandeis’ Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice plan in the wake of the Ford Hall 2015 protests. That plan details efforts to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students, faculty and staff of color; enhance curriculum, professional development and support; and increase accountability.

“There has been a lot of initiative taken by people throughout our community, but there is much more to do,” Liebowitz says. “It became clear to us that, although it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our campus is diverse and inclusive, we needed the full-time focus of an experienced and dedicated leader to elevate our efforts. I am delighted that Mark has agreed to join our team.”

“Higher education is one of the best places to think about creating a more just society,” says Brimhall-Vargas. “My first priority is to get to know the students and fully understand their concerns and needs. There is a lot to learn, and I am looking forward to connecting with the faculty, staff and students. Brandeis has the heritage and the heart to be a role model in how to create a more inclusive campus.”

In spring 2016, Brandeis created a CDO search committee, led by then-Interim Provost Irv Epstein, composed of students, faculty, staff and trustees, and supported by the search firm Witt/Kieffer. Out of more than 50 strong applicants, four final candidates were selected by the committee. Each spent multiple days on campus holding open forums and meeting with smaller groups of students, faculty and staff, all of whom were asked for feedback.

As CDO and associate provost at Tufts, Brimhall-Vargas had primary responsibility for the implementation of that university’s 2013 President’s Diversity Report. Previously, he served for 17 years in various diversity-management positions at the University of Maryland, College Park, including deputy CDO. Since 2000, he has also held teaching positions at a variety of colleges and universities, taught courses in multicultural education, published numerous articles and book chapters, and presented at professional conferences across the country.

Brimhall-Vargas holds a PhD in social foundations of education from the University of Maryland, College Park; an MPP in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and a BA from Pomona College, in California.

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