BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Provost Professor Lemuel W. Watson, currently dean of the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington, will spearhead a major new set of anti-racist initiatives at IU.
Watson will assume the role of associate vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs on July 1. This new position -- announced by IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs James Wimbush -- is the latest in a series of tangible actions IU is taking to further equity and inclusion throughout the university community.
These efforts include:
- Creation of a new Pandemic Health Disparities Fund to address health disparities among Black and Hispanic communities, supported by a task force led by Wimbush.
- A new Health Resources and Services Administration grant to help the IU School of Medicine better educate medical students to care for underserved populations.
- A new Racial Justice Research Fund to support IU faculty research on issues of racial equity and justice.
- The renaming of the Intramural Center to honor legendary IU basketball player Bill Garrett.
- A systematic review of all named buildings or structures on all IU campuses to ensure that they are named for individuals whose values reflect those of the university.
"We have a deep commitment to anti-racism, which we are moving forward both through the strong results we have seen in recruitment and retention of students and faculty, and through a whole new set of initiatives around anti-racism at the university," Robel said. "Dr. Watson is exactly the right person to ensure that we move forward as quickly as possible.
"Dr. Watson has a long, distinguished career as a thought leader in educational policy, the inclusion of underrepresented groups in academic life and collaborative work to address issues of social justice. He is the ideal person to help us take a comprehensive look at the university's processes and structures to enact necessary changes."
As associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, Watson will lead efforts related to the office's anti-racist agenda for all IU campuses. He will also provide strategic direction for supporting a university culture that values diversity, equity and inclusion; support IU leadership in developing a framework for transformative actions that help eliminate inequalities across the university; and coordinate assessment, program reviews, research and audits related to the office's initiatives across IU's campuses.
"Dr. Lem Watson is a thoughtful, seasoned leader who cares very deeply about enhancing IU's diversity and inclusion efforts," Wimbush said. In addition to his role as vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, Wimbush also serves as dean of The University Graduate School and is the Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. "I'm so grateful that, in a time when the university needs an even more concentrated focus on the social justice concerns that are being raised locally and nationally, we have someone who will further our efforts and make sure they are sustained. Dr. Watson is the perfect person to keep us focused and moving forward with our anti-racist agenda."
Watson will continue his research as a core faculty member at the Kinsey Institute, where he will help oversee Kinsey's efforts to generate collaborative education, research and fundraising related to LGBTQ+ lives and topics. This will include research on LGBTQ+ youth mental health as part of the partnership between Kinsey and The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
"I am honored to continue to serve Indiana University, the faculty, staff and students in these new roles," Watson said. "Over the last three decades, I have been an advocate, researcher and professor who has tried to build bridges where there are differences, especially with underrepresented and LGBTQ populations. Creating a sense of belonging and community for all who are at IU is essential work and well worth the effort to build a stronger organization. Having the opportunity to work with IU's campuses across constituencies and disciplines to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion is essential for a healthy community."
Watson leaves the deanship at the School of Education after leading an initiative in diversity and inclusion and a strategic planning process. The school was listed among the Best Education Graduate Schools in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings and was among the top five schools for higher education administration. Under Watson's leadership, the school's diversity committee moved forward with a set of goals including a review of promotion and tenure language and processes; creation of a policy for establishing and maintaining an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the school; and revision of the schoolwide diversity plan to include staff and students.
Watson is a faculty affiliate in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has authored or co-authored seven books and monographs and many articles, and he has been granted $13 million in research funding by an array of organizations. He has shared his expertise on systemic educational policy, talent management and leadership issues both domestically and in countries all over the world, and he has been deeply engaged with the community as a personal and professional advocate through membership on numerous arts, community, educational and professional boards.
Through his new role, Watson sees expanded possibilities for his contributions to the university.
"I firmly believe that we need to create a campus culture that embraces empathy, compassion, respect, care and forgiveness as we continue to understand many perspectives regarding privilege and racism in our country and world," Watson said. "I can make a significant contribution to collaboratively enhance what is already present and partner to create new initiatives to build diverse and inclusive campus cultures. Through my three-decades-long career in higher education, I have prioritized the practice and scholarship that enable me to remain current for my responsibilities with DEMA and the Kinsey Institute."