TACOMA, Wash. – Michael Benitez Jr., a highly regarded higher education administrator and educator with broad experience in campus diversity issues, will join University of Puget Sound as dean for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, following an extensive national search.
Benitez is currently director of the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership at Grinnell College, a selective, private liberal arts college in Iowa, and will assume his responsibilities at Puget Sound effective June 5, 2013.
“Michael Benitez brings a rich set of assets to this important role for Puget Sound at a strategically critical moment,” said President Ronald R. Thomas. “His understanding of the relationship between campus diversity and academic excellence, his clearly defined set of values and commitments, his national reputation, and his impressive record of success in diversity initiatives at three liberal arts colleges will serve us well as we advance on our goals for an authentically diverse campus.”
In his new role Benitez will have primary responsibility for coordinating implementation of Puget Sound’s strategic plan for diversity. This includes overseeing access and achievement programs, monitoring and evaluating the campus environment, developing new resources, and collaborating with campus leadership, faculty, and students to advance the college’s diversity goals.
“The search process for the dean for diversity and inclusion was a powerful learning experience for the campus,” noted Academic Vice President Kris Bartanen. “There was broad and thoughtful engagement by student leaders, faculty members, and staff colleagues in candidate visits and discussions. The search advisory committee joins me in strong support of Michael Benitez and of the programs he and campus members will undertake.”
I am very excited about the work ahead,” Benitez said. “From the first moment I visited Puget Sound and the Tacoma area, it was apparent that this is a campus committed to diversity and inclusion, and academic excellence. Realizing a diversity vision requires a collaborative spirit, authenticity in the mission, innovation and holism in the approach, and transparency and intentionality in the process—all of which I observed in the efforts of campus members and the leadership. I look forward to partnering with the campus community in building on and advancing this vital work at Puget Sound.”
Many in the Tacoma community may already be familiar with Benitez, who delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Youth and Family Summit co-sponsored by Tacoma Public Schools and University of Puget Sound’s Race and Pedagogy Initiative.
A frequent speaker and workshop leader at conferences and colleges across the nation, Benitez is a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University. Over the past decade, he has been recognized with several leadership awards as he has served in increasingly broad and challenging roles. These include director of the Office of Intercultural Development at Lafayette College and director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives and Social Justice at Dickinson College, both Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges.
At Grinnell College, Benitez’s innovations have included designing and implementing orientation, mentorship, and training programs incorporating student leadership, and a collaboration with faculty to launch an inclusive discussion group where faculty and staff could address issues of diversity. During his studies at The Pennsylvania State University, Benitez served as academic coordinator, retention counselor, and intern coordinator for the College Assistance Migrant Program. His work there helped to revive local migrant education efforts. At Penn State he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in human development and family studies and a Master of Education degree in counselor education, focused on multicultural theory and practice.
Benitez has authored book chapters and articles on topics of identity and ethnic studies. He co-edited an anthology by prominent scholars and activists on the Academy Award-winning film Crash, and he has served in an array of professional service and community leadership roles, including as a member of the executive planning committee for the 2013 National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE).
Puget Sound hired its first chief diversity officer, Kim Bobby, in 2007 as part of a comprehensive, strategic plan for diversity. In 2012 Bobby joined the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., as director of the Inclusive Excellence Group.
Press photos of Michael Benitez Jr. can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
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