Top diversity position filled; new VP wants open-door policy

A little more than a year after the search began, the president and provost have selected UK’s top diversity official.

Judy “J.J.” Jackson of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., will begin as the vice president for institutional diversity July 1. Jackson visited UK earlier this month, and she said she knew she wanted the job during her first day on campus.

“Most of the time an institution will hire someone at any level and say ‘OK, our work is done,’ ” she said. “If I had sensed that at UK, that would have ended my interest.”

In her new role, Jackson will be responsible for advising the president and the provost on how university decisions will affect UK’s diversity goals. The position will also include coordinating diversity efforts among students, faculty, staff and administration.

One challenge Jackson said she anticipates is finding gaps between diversity goals and policy in different programs on campus. Jackson said she plans to meet with college deans, department heads and other university officials to see where different UK programs are at in terms of diversity.

“A program like this is going to take years and years, and laying the groundwork is critically important,” she said.

To begin looking at how students see diversity at UK, Jackson said she would talk with student leaders and student affairs officials, as well as look at data on diversity that the university has collected.

The number of UK students would limit the amount of time she could spend speaking one-on-one with them, Jackson said, but she stressed that an open-door policy with students is a must, and she would look at what times she could set aside that would be convenient for them.

Patrick Nally, a marketing and integrated strategic communications junior, said he hopes Jackson will sit down with members of the UK community and come up with long-term goals for diversity efforts when she arrives on campus.

“That way it’s continuous and not someone trying to be the savior of the university every other year,” Nally said.

Nally said he has had many conversations with other students about the top diversity position over the last year or two, and he believes many people will be pleased to hear Jackson was selected.

“We all felt like she had great personal experience that would help her in the long run at the university,” he said.

Search committee chair Carol Jordan said she is confident the president and provost made a wise choice for vice president for institutional diversity.

Jackson showed a “gifted style of communication that generated enthusiasm across campus,” Jordan said. “She generated the best kind of excitement in the UK community, the kind where people want to join her in advancing diversity, not just watch her succeed from afar.”

Jackson said she will visit UK’s campus at least two or three times before she begins July 1 to try and meet with leaders on campus. She said she is trying to arrange a two-day window to visit sometime in the next two weeks.

“I expect to start meeting with people so I can hit the ground running,” she said.

Staff writer Juliann Vachon contributed to this report.