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The Daily Tar Heel

Clayton hopes to integrate diversity better


Taffye Clayton decided to devote her career to championing diversity 20 years ago because of her experiences as a UNC undergraduate.

Now, Clayton will return to the University as its chief diversity officer to give back to the community that made her who she is today.

“Diversity is my job, but it’s everyone’s responsibility,” Clayton said. “Engaging leadership, students and the community — that’s the only way this works. It has to be an institutional commitment.”

Clayton, who was tapped as the next vice provost for diversity and multicultural affairs in December, will take office Feb. 1.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney who made the final decision, said Clayton’s salary will be $190,000 a year. That is $28,000 more than her predecessor, Archie Ervin, who stepped down at the end of 2010.

Terri Houston, who has served in the interim post since December 2010, said Clayton will inherit a position that has elevated in significance and doubled in workload.

In September, Carney announced the chief diversity officer would join his cabinet as a vice provost.

Christian a cappella group Psalm 100’s dismissal of senior Will Thomason also made diversity a hot topic in the fall.

Carney said Clayton’s passion for UNC and her concrete strategies for the future placed her above the other contenders for the position.

“She’s a buoyant, hard-working personality, and those are two of the things that got to me,” Carney said. “She has clearly made a careful study of other institutions and has a grasp of the issue that we face and how she will move forward.”

Clayton served as East Carolina University’s chief diversity officer for 16 years. She said she wants to strengthen UNC’s commitment to diversity by blending in new, innovative practices.

Clayton said she will emphasize the priority on diversity in the University’s mission statement, which references teaching a “diverse community of undergraduate, graduate and professional students.”

“It’s extremely important to approach diversity as a mission-driven priority,” Clayton said. “When we do that we’re able to define it in a way that allows each person to identify his or herself in the commitment.”

Houston said establishing a rapport with administrators and students will be essential to Clayton’s transition.

“My advice to her is to be willing to listen. You have to learn UNC, and UNC has to learn you,” Houston said, adding that she will continue to serve as senior director for recruitment and multicultural programs, her previous position.

Clayton said she hopes to introduce key diversity initiatives similar to ones piloted at ECU, like seminars that enrich cross-cultural understanding.

“We’ve framed cultural competence as a set of skills that any person can develop,” she said. “It lies along a continuum from diversity to inclusion to competence, and I’m committed to bringing that to Carolina.”

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