Widener’s Culture of Support for DEI Attracts National Media Attention

Mary Allen, director of communications
Two banners on campus read "We're All Widener"

Widener University’s leadership in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion has attracted the attention of a prominent national higher education publication.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a 52-page report this week titled “Diverse leadership for a new era: How to recruit and support an inclusive administration.” A section of the report that examines the task of attracting and developing talent features extensive commentary from Widener President Julie E. Wollman, Fiscal Operations Manager Audrey Strickland, and Visiting American Council on Education Fellow Caroline Kobek Pezzarossi.

All three women contributed interviews for the report, talking with Chronicle of Higher Education Senior Editor Alexander C. Kafka about their views and experiences. The report details Wollman’s encouragement and support for Strickland, who is Black, and Kobek Pezzarossi, who is Deaf. She recognized Strickland’s talent as a long-serving director of accounts payable and offered her executive coaching. As Strickland continued to distinguish herself and demonstrate her leadership skills, she was promoted.

With Kobek Pezzarossi, Wollman sponsored her ACE fellow experience at Widener, demonstrating her support for a budding administrative leader whose diverse background as a Deaf academic is not commonly seen at institutions outside Kobek Pezzarossi’s home university at Gallaudet.

“Audrey and Carrie have made valuable and impactful contributions to Widener,” Wollman said. “It was a pleasure to hold them up to the Chronicle of Higher Education as examples of why it is critical to nurture and support people whose gifts and talents could be overlooked. Diversity, equity and inclusion are a personal priority for me, and they are part of our culture at Widener. It’s gratifying to see a national publication like the Chronicle take notice.”

Wollman has made diversity, equity and inclusion a centerpiece of her administration, which comes to a close June 30 when she departs from the Widener presidency to serve as professor of practice in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Under her leadership, Widener was named a Great College to Work For three times in the last four years, including in the most recent academic year, in which Widener was honored in the newly created category of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. She has been a staunch supporter of efforts to diversify faculty and staff at the university, and 42 percent of new faculty hires for 2021-22 were people of color.  And, she and her husband made a $100,000 endowed gift to Widener that in part created the Wollman Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, given annually to an employee who advocates and effects change at Widener in support of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

To read the full diversity report, visit the Chronicle online, where it is available for purchase.

You May Also Like

Anthony Pluretti poses in uniform in front of the historic Old Main building.

A National Model for Campus Safety Leadership

We sat down with Anthony Pluretti, campus safety director and winner of the 2022 Campus Safety Higher Education Director of the Year award by Campus Safety magazine, to talk about his leadership strategy, how he approaches engaging with the Widener community, and his vision for the campus safety department.