Carnegie Mellon University: Heading-Grant Named CMU’s Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

After a comprehensive national search, Wanda Heading-Grant has been selected as Carnegie Mellon University’s inaugural vice provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and chief diversity officer. Heading-Grant, who is currently vice president for DEI at the University of Vermont, will begin her new role at Carnegie Mellon on April 1. She will also hold a faculty appointment as Distinguished Service Professor in the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

During her 30-year tenure at the University of Vermont, Heading-Grant has advised senior leadership on essential policies, programs and strategies to achieve inclusive excellence while ensuring every member of the university community received the support necessary to thrive. She established programs and policies fundamental to the advancement of DEI, including tools to enhance and innovate employee performance and professional development opportunities.

Heading-Grant has been widely recognized for her dedication to social justice issues, her sponsorship of women leaders in higher education and her strong leadership that promotes well-being in the workplace and in the classroom.

Carnegie Mellon first committed in 2019 to establish a new vice provost position to lead a university-wide office dedicated to providing accountability, leadership and resources for DEI initiatives. In July 2020, CMU President Farnam Jahanian furthered this commitment as part of numerous actions in the university’s official pledge to Confront Racism and Promote Equity and Inclusion.

“Bringing about a more diverse, inclusive and equitable future for Carnegie Mellon University requires sustained engagement from every member of this community and the commitment of university leadership at every level,” said Jahanian. “As a well-respected advocate and leader in higher education, Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant is a critical addition to the university leadership team and an invaluable asset to our community during this important journey. I look forward to relying on her significant expertise as we work towards ensuring all students, faculty and staff can find a sense of belonging at CMU and feel pride in our institution’s role in promoting a more equitable world.”

“The vice provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plays an integral role in promoting inclusivity and diversity, challenging the status quo and maintaining a robust dialogue centered around anti-racist practices and the research that supports it,” said Carnegie Mellon Provost James H. Garrett Jr. “With a wealth of experience both professionally and with non-profit organizations and civil rights advisory committees, I am confident Dr. Heading-Grant will provide the strong leadership necessary to enact real and lasting changes in how CMU addresses racism, classism, sexism and the language of othering.”

As the university’s chief diversity officer, Heading-Grant will be instrumental in long-range DEI planning and implementation. This includes coordinating with each of the academic and administrative units in overseeing their five-year strategic DEI plans and college-based commitments. She also will oversee the Office of Title IX Initiatives and jointly oversee the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion with the Division of Student Affairs.

“What most attracted me to this role was Carnegie Mellon’s willingness to identify the many isms that plague our society and name the echoes of oppression and privilege that still exists in our communities,” Heading-Grant said. “There aren’t many institutions of higher education that take this important first step of committing to the eradication and dismantling of racism. Throughout the search process it was clear to me that CMU had something quite special — an earnest charge to tackle and combat racism combined with a real desire to take their commitments to the next level through concrete action.”

The creation of the new vice provost role came after months of educational preparation and listening, both within the university administration and across the broader campus community.

“Carnegie Mellon is so very fortunate to have attracted Dr. Heading-Grant to serve as its inaugural vice provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” said Linda Babcock, Social and Decisions Sciences Department head and James M. Walton Professor in Economics in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, who served as co-chair of the vice provost search committee. “Her vast experience leading change in the academy, her passion for and commitment to creating an anti-racist culture, and her ability to build trust and develop strong relationships among a diverse set of stakeholders make her an ideal choice for this important new role at CMU.”

“In addition to Dr. Heading-Grant’s extensive leadership experience, her support for and hands on approach to professional development in support of social justice goals, and her successful efforts to create bridges to communities external to the university greatly impressed the committee members and the community members who interviewed her, affirming her exemplary qualifications for our inaugural VP-DEI position,” said fellow search committee co-chair Eric Anderson, associate professor in the School of Design and senior associate dean of the College of Fine Arts.

A photo of Wanda Heading-Grant
Wanda Heading-Grant
“Throughout the search process it was clear to me that CMU had something quite special — an earnest charge to tackle and combat racism combined with a real desire to take their commitments to the next level through concrete action.” — Wanda Heading-Grant
“Dr. Heading-Grant is a highly regarded influencer and transformative leader for inclusive excellence and understands the importance of intersectionality in student engagement and has a legacy of uplifting student voices,” said M. Shernell Smith, associate dean and executive director of the CMU Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion. “She stood out in the selection process as a trusted, highly visible and transparent leader who traverses the campus community with a lens focused on equity and collaborative learning. She models restorative justice practices in her daily interactions at the University of Vermont and I am very excited to see how our Carnegie Mellon DEI values will be realized under her leadership.”

Shawn Blanton, the Trustee Professor of Electrical and Computing Engineering, has served as interim vice provost since September 2020. He will return to his role as a full-time faculty member in the College of Engineering this coming summer.

“We are grateful to professor Blanton for his willingness to serve in this interim role,” Garrett said. “Shawn oversaw the expansion of our GEM fellowship program to meet the unique needs of underrepresented professional master’s and doctoral students in all seven colleges and schools at the university. In addition, his focus on expansion of CMU’s local community engagement provides a solid foundation for ongoing efforts to attract and retain underrepresented students from the Pittsburgh area as undergraduates.”

“I also want to thank the search committee — and especially Eric, Linda and Associate Provost Becky Culyba who served as co-chairs — for their outstanding efforts throughout the process,” Garrett added. “The committee’s exceptional guidance and vision have allowed us to welcome the ideal leader for our new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to the principle of equity as a partner to excellence as the foundation for ensuring that faculty, staff and students have the opportunity to succeed and to thrive at the university. To nurture and sustain this commitment, Carnegie Mellon strives to be a diverse community that reflects the gender, racial, ethnic and other demographic profiles of its regional, national and global constituencies.

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