Dominican diversity; changing demographics

October 6, 2015

By Natalie Rodriguez

As the new semester begins, Dominican University gives a warm welcome to its newest faculty member, Chief of Diversity Officer, Sheila Radford-Hill. After 11 years of service at Luther College in Decorah, IA, Radford-Hill is ready to take on the challenges that come along with her position.

The Chief Diversity Officer, or CDO, serves as a resource of guidance for faculty, staff and students regarding issues of diversity. The CDO facilitates diversity initiatives on campus in addition to coordinating Title IX efforts. Title IX is a 1972 Federal Civil Rights Law that prohibits discrimination based on sex regarding federal funded education programs.

Radford-Hill is well prepared for her new position. Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, she attended DePaul University to get her Bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. From there, she went on to the University of Pennsylvania for her Master’s degree, and later attained her Ph.D. in humanities from the Columbia Commonwealth University. After many years of experience, Radford-Hill wanted to apply her passion for young people and social justice at a new institution.

Radford-Hill was attracted to Dominican for several reasons the primary one being the institution’s diverse demographics. As of 2015, Dominican’s undergraduate student population is 49 percent Hispanic, 37 percent Caucasian, 6 percent African American, 3 percent Asian and 5 percent other.

“I wanted to be part of the solution of having us learn to live and work inclusively,” said Radford-Hill. “Different backgrounds of students influence how effectively they can all work together as a community.”

Another aspect off Dominican that attracted Radford-Hill was its population of first generation and low-income students.

“I wasn’t the first in my family to go to college but I was a low-income student,” said Radford-Hill. “I grew up on the West side of Chicago so I believe I can empathize with students that are struggling with these issues.”

A new initiative to better achieve the goal of adapting to the needs of students is a project called Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence. Dominican University was chosen along with eleven other universities in the country to participate in this project by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The purpose is to teach educators how to understand whom their students are and where they may be falling short in an effort to help and support them.

Regarding her thoughts on campus diversity, Radford Hill has some ideas on further improvement.

“When I think about diversity most broadly, I think about populations who aren’t here in great numbers,” said Radford Hill. “I’d like to see Dominican reflect the country that we live in which would translate to having more out-of-state students. This is not to say we’re not diverse, but it’s looking at where we could be more diverse.”