First day for diversity VP

Kelly Petrysyzn

Brown seeks inclusion of all

She describes herself as Alfreda “Diversity” Brown. She sits in an empty office, wearing a cherry-red suit coat topped with a black patterned scarf. Her demeanor pulls you in like a magnet as she talks about how excited she is to be here.

She is the new vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Kent State. Brown is the first to hold the position, which was created by President Lester Lefton at the recommendation of the Commission on Inclusion, a group that examines diversity at Kent State. Yesterday was her first day.

“I am so motivated,” she said with certainty in her voice, adding that she feels Kent State is going places.

She began her first day by attending the Bowman Breakfast, meetings and the Athena Awards.

Brown said she has been passionate about diversity and that it is important to note diversity involves everyone, not a select few.

“Sometimes people thought diversity is only about race or gender or a specific focus, but diversity is so much more than that,” she said, holding a strong gaze and nodding to enforce her point. “And we start looking at inclusive diversity. Truly it means everyone, and I like that picture of diversity where you have diversity across many spectrums.

“If we can just get out of our head that narrow focus of what diversity is, then we can help a lot of people.”

She comes from 22 years of diversity experience at Rochester Institute of Technology. Her extensive 12-page resume lists involvement with implementing, designing and evaluating diversity programs and initiatives at RIT.

Brown, who has been at Rochester most of her life, said she wanted to come to Kent State to try a new environment.

And she appreciates what she calls Kent State’s “sense of purpose” – the feeling that “We know why we exist. I like that,” she said.

When Lefton named her to the new post Sept. 16., he said that she was a lucky find.

“Finding a person of talent, experience, intelligence and good humor is a matter of luck,” he said. He added that the position was moved to cabinet level to ensure an inclusive environment at Kent State and have someone who wakes up every day with the sole purpose of diversity.

Once Brown gets settled, she plans to see if the programs she implemented at RIT can work here. She has one program in mind, the Global Leadership Certificate Program. This program pairs students up with other students by some level of difference that ranges from race to class rank. Students in the program go on a leadership retreat, engage in discussions about diversity, do service and other activities. Brown said graduates told her that prospective employers found it fascinating that students had global leadership certificates.

In the meantime, Brown said she wants to start examining 15 recommendations for diversity submitted by the Commission on Inclusion.

So far, she said she has felt welcomed at Kent State.

“It’s been incredible,” she said with a smile on her face. “Yesterday when I got in, a student helped me get into the building because she had a key card and mine didn’t work. I thought that was so nice. She didn’t have to stop, but she did.”

Brown said she is looking forward to the year ahead.

“I look at my job as being a very exciting job,” she said. “It’s about everybody. It’s about working together. It might be a challenge for some, but it’s exciting to me.”

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].