Search nearly complete for new AACC chief diversity officer


Daniel Salomon

The college is searching for a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to replace Dr. Deidra Dennie, who left to work at Transylvania University.

Jazsmine Hill, Diversity Editor

AACC officials said they are close to hiring a new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer who will oversee the college’s efforts to offer equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their race, age or nationality. 

The officer will replace Dr. Deidra Dennie, who worked at AACC for almost three years before leaving last summer to take a job at another college. Dennie was the college’s second diversity officer. 

“We need somebody that can captivate and reach people,” Dr. Nicole Williams, chair of the committee searching for Dennie’s replacement, said. “You know, someone that people feel comfortable coming to, to talk about some issues of racism or equity or any type of diversity issues.” 

AACC was the first community college in Maryland and one of the first among the country’s 1,600 community colleges to have a chief diversity officer, AACC President Dawn Lindsay said.  

“It is unusual and … it’s becoming more popular,” she said. “A lot of times, you’ll see your chief diversity officers at four-year universities.” 

Lindsay said the new diversity officer will be a key player in carrying out the college’s plan to narrow the gap between students of varying races when it comes to passing classes and reaching graduation. 

Campus data show that white and Asian students are more likely to reach those goals than black and Hispanic students. 

The search committee recommended three candidates for the diversity officer’s position last fall but Lindsay decided to hire an outside firm to expand the search.  

AACC is looking for a candidate with a master’s degree and a minimum of five years of leadership experience in the field of diversity.  

The new diversity officer will help students, staff and faculty problem-solve issues involving diversity, equity and inclusion.

While Dennie was the diversity officer, the college conducted a “campus climate survey” among faculty and staff in 2019. Those who participated in the survey said they believed AACC students feel uncomfortable reporting discrimination to college administrators. Faculty also said they believed the college’s administration was not diverse enough to achieve the college’s “strategic objectives.” 

In addition, Dennie created a system to allow students who go by a name other than their legal name to reveal that during registration so course rosters and other campus documents reflect that choice.

Students agreed that diversity is an important issue for the campus, and having a high-ranking administrator dedicated to it could benefit them. 

“You know, it gives students of those diverse cultures to have options and people to come to when they feel that they need help,” third-year health, fitness and exercise student Jared Daniels said.  

The new diversity officer could “come up with ways and ideas to make sure … everyone has an equal opportunity on campus and no one’s being left out,” fourth-year psychology student Oriana Rayhart said.  

One student had a piece of advice for the new diversity officer. 

“Treat people right,” second-year music student Alexandra Ewing said. “I think that they should be open-minded.”