Dr. Robert Sellers, the University of Michigan’s chief diversity officer, announced he will be stepping down from his position Dec. 31, according to The University Record. Sellers was at the helm of the University’s five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, referred to as DEI 1.0, which will come to a close this year.
“As DEI 1.0 draws to a close after an initial five years and we move seamlessly toward DEI 2.0, Dr. Sellers believes this is the right time to allow new leadership to bring new ideas and new energy to the work that is absolutely essential to our success as an institution of higher education,” University President Mark Schlissel wrote in a message to the University community. “Yet, we would not be in a position to move forward on our goals without his leadership and the work he has done in this role over the last seven years.”
As the University begins its search for his successor among current faculty members, Sellers will remain in his position until the end of the calendar year. In his announcement, Schlissel affirmed the University “will not let up” on DEI 1.0 in this period of transition.
Sellers has served as chief diversity officer at the University since 2014. In an email to his colleagues earlier this week, Sellers expressed gratitude to the campus community members he has worked with and their “amazing commitment to making the university a better place for all.”
“While there is still work to do, I am very proud of all that we have accomplished,” Sellers wrote.
Schlissel provided well wishes to Sellers in his email to community members and outlined how important Sellers has been in the University’s commitment to DEI during his tenure.
“While it truly takes each one of us to raise up the work of diversity, equity and inclusion at a place as big and dispersed as the University of Michigan, Dr. Robert Sellers has been outstanding in leading this critical work across our campus on a day-to-day basis for the past seven years, alongside his tremendous team,” Schlissel wrote.
Sellers plans to return to his post in the Department of Psychology as a tenured faculty member. In addition to being chief diversity officer, he has worked within the University for 28 years. Once the University finds his successor, Sellers said in his message he will work closely with administration to help with the transition process.
As Sellers steps down, Schlissel reaffirmed his own commitment to DEI in his email to community members.
“We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of the word,” Schlissel wrote. “And we must also ensure that our community allows all individuals an equal opportunity to thrive.”
As chief diversity officer and a member of the provost’s cabinet, Sellers coordinated efforts such as faculty recruitment and retention, tenure and faculty development. The position also involved advising Schlissel on DEI-related issues and serving as University spokesperson for DEI matters.
Specifically under the five-year DEI 1.0 plan, Sellers oversaw initiatives such as the hiring of more than 90 new tenure-track faculty members with a “demonstrated commitment to research and teaching related to DEI,” the initiation of the Wolverine Pathways program at the University, the implementation of the University’s first DEI climate survey for students, faculty and staff and the creation of the new Trotter Multicultural Center, according to Schissel’s announcement.
The DEI 1.0 plan came after numerous racist incidents occurred on campus, which sparked outrage among the University community and greater amounts of student activism criticizing the University’s handling of the incidents.
Sellers’ successor will be involved in the yearlong review of DEI 1.0 and the planning of the next phase of the University’s DEI accelerator plans.
While Sellers is stepping down, he wrote he is not relinquishing his involvement in these efforts.
“And let me be clear about this: While I am leaving my administrative role, I am not leaving the effort,” Sellers wrote. “I am just changing positions.”
More information on the University’s search for the next chief diversity officer will be shared later this month, according to The Record.