An Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine associate professor has been appointed to a key position aimed directly at promoting and improving faculty diversity and inclusion at Oakland University.

Associate Professor from OUWB named OU Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity
Wasserman headshot for web

An Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine associate professor has been appointed to a key position aimed directly at promoting and improving faculty diversity and inclusion at Oakland University.

Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., associate professor, OUWB, is one of two recently appointed Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity at OU.

The other appointee is Joanne Lipson Freed, M.A., associate professor and M.A. program director in OU’s English Department.

The Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity is dedicated to providing strategies that promote faculty diversity and inclusion, which includes working to increase the number of underrepresented full-time faculty.

Wasserman said the position falls in line with his belief that it’s important to go beyond simply talking about diversity and inclusion and put systems in place that counter the bias that he said is part of being human.

“We can and should go out and talk about the value and importance of diversity and why it matters — we can and should go out and try to make people more aware of their biases,” he said. “But at the same time, you’re going to hit a point where you’re preaching to the choir, where people have done a lot of reflection but they’re still going to have biases.”

“My real interest is that next frontier — how can we create systems that help us act more fairly and equitably and to achieve greater diversity?”

As the chief academic officer of Oakland University, the senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost leads and oversees the academic programs, research, and outreach activities of the institution’s faculty, staff, and students.

Currently, Oakland University is conducting a national search for its next executive vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost.

According to Joi Cunningham, assistant vice president of  Academic Human Resources, Oakland University, goals for the Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity have been established by the Provost, in consultation with senior Academic Affairs division leaders and in support of goals and targets set by the Oakland University's strategic plan.

Cunningham said the Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity will:

  • Develop and implement training tools for faculty on diversity and inclusion, e.g. hiring
  • Support the establishment of disciplinary relationships to underrepresented groups within and outside the university
  • Lead the university senate committee on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and other committees as appropriate
  • Be a resource on matters of faculty diversity

“This position provides a critical faculty link between diversity initiatives in the Provost office and constituencies such as Diversity Advocates, faculty search committees and DEI Council, and promotes those initiatives in support of the university's strategic plan,” said Cunningham. “It also provides faculty with job shadowing-type experiences and exposure to senior management at the university.”

Wasserman and Lipson Freed are the third cohort to fill these positions. It is a one-year appointment with an opportunity to be renewed for an additional year.

The first person to hold the position was Karen Markel, Ph.D., former professor of Management in the School of Business Administration, OU. Markel was followed by Cynthia Miree-Coppin, Ph.D., professor of Management and Marketing in the School of Business Administration, OU.

Miree-Coppin served for two years from summer 2018 through summer 2020. Her accomplishments during this period include development of the Diversity Advocate (DA) program for faculty searches, creation and delivery of a training program for DAs, training for more than 60 DAs, and assignment of DAs to a majority of full-time faculty searches. Discussions are underway to expand that program to staff searches.

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Wasserman said it’s important to note that the university’s DA program was modeled after a similar system (Diversity Liaison Program) first developed at OUWB under the leadership of Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Diversity & Inclusion, OUWB.

With regard to serving as a Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity, Cunningham said Wasserman “brings a unique perspective” as an OUWB faculty member.

“Since coming to Oakland he has been involved in a number of initiatives related to diversity and inclusion within the department, the school of medicine, the larger university, and our surrounding community,” she said.

Cunningham noted that Wasserman co-chaired OUWB’s Diversity Council (focused specifically on issues of diversity and inclusion among faculty), and assisted with garnering support and implementation of the Diversity Liaison Program. He also served for five years as chair of the OUWB Admissions Committee.

For the broader OU community, Wasserman serves on a university-wide committee established at the request of the University Senate to promote faculty-related diversity and inclusion goals.

Further, he worked closely with Miree-Coppin to lead numerous training sessions for faculty across OU who served as DAs on faculty search committees, as well as made a number of presentations to academic departments and other groups across campus on the topics of diversity and inclusion.

Among other things, Wasserman said he hopes to help various OU departments identify potential challenges with their tenure promotion guidelines and think through the ways in which these might be revised with an eye toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“This does push me into new territory that I’m excited about, specifically related to faculty affairs,” said Wasserman. “I’ve been interested for quite a while in issues related to faculty life and the kind of culture we are creating and sustaining for faculty.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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