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UW-Madison hires internally for next chief diversity officer
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UW-Madison hires internally for next chief diversity officer

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LaVar Charleston

LaVar Charleston starts as chief diversity officer at UW-Madison in August.

UW-Madison has tapped an administrator who oversees diversity efforts in the School of Education as its next chief diversity officer, the university announced Tuesday.

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LaVar Charleston, whose research focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion on college campuses, will begin the job Aug. 2. The chief diversity officer, one of a handful of positions reporting directly to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, leads campuswide efforts to create a diverse and inclusive community.

“These are hard and challenging times, but they are also encouraging times, because there’s a renewed energy on our campus,” Charleston said in the university’s announcement. “We have more allies than we’ve had in recent times, and there’s a renewed sense of ownership and accountability when it comes to anti-racist practices and making sure our environments are inclusive.”

Blank, in a statement, said the job is of the “utmost importance as we continue to work toward a day when every member of our campus community is able to thrive, with no barriers to success.”

Charleston’s promotion continues a pattern of UW-Madison hiring internally for many of its biggest jobs. The university has tapped its own employees to fill the positions of provost, chief legal officer, athletic director, chief research officer, College of Letters and Science dean and vice provost of enrollment management.

Charleston earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Ball State University in 2002 and came to UW-Madison in 2005 to work as a site coordinator for a precollege program that brings students who are low-income or come from underrepresented to campus over the summer. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from UW-Madison in 2007 and 2010.

A self-described “diehard Detroiter,” Charleston played Division I football and sings in Kinfolk, a local soul and R&B band. His wife, Sherri Ann Charleston, left UW-Madison last summer to serve as chief diversity officer for Harvard University.

Charleston succeeds Cheryl Gittens, who filled the position on an interim basis since last July. His annual salary will be $300,000, according to the university.

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