With the University defending in court its commitment to diversity and striving to implement the points of last fall’s Report on the Undergraduate Experience, University President Mary Sue Coleman yesterday appointed a permanent advisor, Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts, to help her deal with these unsettled issues.
Monts was first appointed senior counsel for the arts, diversity and undergraduate education by former interim President B. Joseph White, a position created by White during his seven-month tenure as president. Coleman said she has decided to keep Monts as senior counselor to the president as an effort to improve ways in which the University approaches issues and to make the University a more welcoming place.
“When I got here and I had the chance to sit down with Lester … I found out how helpful he had been,” Coleman said. “He has always been an important advisor to me.”
Coleman said she has asked Monts to spend much of his time on the undergraduate experience report. Monts, a co-author of the report and a member of the President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience, said this would be one of the large parts of his job.
“I feel a very important role for myself is keeping the University focused on undergraduates,” Monts said, adding he wants to make sure that various services are working at peak efficiency so that students can use them more effectively.
Monts will also help advise the president on how to carry out the University’s mission for a diverse campus, beyond the admission policies the University may have to defend before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I am helping her to make sure that we not only seek diversity in representation but that everyone understands the importance of diversity in education,” he said. “As we prepare students to move into leadership roles, their experiences with diversity on this campus will be positive attributes.”
Monts is also charged with advising the president on the arts and said he plans to “keep arts at the center of campus culture,” allowing students to enjoy them and integrating the arts into student life.
Monts lauded Coleman for having a vision for the University and said he is looking forward to continuing his work with her.
“President Coleman is creating a team to move the University … and I am pleased to be a part of that,” he said. “I am going to be as strong a team player as I possibly can in achieving her goals.”
Monts, who first joined the University in 1993 as an administrator and professor of music, will continue to serve in his post as senior vice provost. One of the world’s leading scholars on the music and culture of the Guinea coast region of West Africa, he has focused his research on the culture of the Vai people of Liberia.