Seated in his Chicago office with oversized headphones, nestled into his swivel chair on Zoom, Elmhurst University’s inaugural Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Bruce King donned a bright smile.
A bright voice matched the warm personality King evoked through the camera. He good-naturedly joked and laughed about how The Leader didn’t endorse him as the candidate for the inaugural VP position in the Sept. 14 editorial at the beginning of the call. Yet, he still eagerly expressed his openness to sitting down for an interview.
For King, the journey to EU was not a one and done decision. King was apprehensive because he just entered his current job position at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) as associate vice chancellor for racial equity in February.
As he progressed through the process of applying to, learning about, and visiting the institution, it became clear to King what he needed to do.
“I must be at Elmhurst,” said King between laughs.
King became aware of the inaugural role opening up at EU through his friend of 40 years, who has worked with EU in the past and put the job on King’s radar.
“He called and said ‘I’ve worked with Elmhurst and I think it would be a great place for you,’” said King when discussing how he was told about the opening.
One of the draws that attracted King to EU is its proximity to Chicago. Having grown up in the city, King finally circled back to home base with his position at CCC, and with Elmhurst’s proximity to Chicago, it wouldn’t keep him far away from home.
While apprehensive to consider EU because of his position at City Colleges of Chicago, he noticed something at EU that reminded him of a common theme throughout the trajectory of his career.
“My career has been kind of at colleges like Elmhurst [that are] progressively being challenged around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” explained King. “When I talk to people on campus [I find] a real sincere desire not for a saviour, but someone that can help them with the work that’s already been going on.”
With this inaugural position, King will set the foundation for the role with one of his first tasks being hiring a director of DEI to be “student facing” on the ground, interacting with students and reporting back to King in order to resolve issues and bring them up to the cabinet.
“It needs to be somebody fresh out of student life [still] in student life mode,” explained King. “I have someone over in the Frick Center who has people popping in everyday and that person says ‘you got to talk to Bruce or let’s have a meeting.’”
King revealed he would be coming onto campus in order to draft a job description for the new director who will begin searching for and hiring in Spring 2022.
A must for King is somebody working in the office of DEI who is accessible to students 24/7. This is needed in order to have the work flow between students, faculty, and administrators, with King being at the top making calls to other administrators to fix any problems.
Throughout his first year in the role, King’s goal is to develop relationships by getting to know the campus community. By harvesting a relationship with the campus, he will be enabled to identify the needs and issues the campus needs to improve upon to enhance diversity.
“I really want to learn about the campus and the people and [learn] what is high hanging fruit and low hanging fruit,” said King. “I immediately see a couple priorities is to create a physical space for students to feel like they have a place on campus that isn’t a residence hall room or a table in the cafeteria.”
King mentioned reading The Leader’s article in the Sept. 28 issue highlighting the four student workers running the ODI remotely after Jasmin Robinson’s departure in August, stating the article provided him with insight about the state of DEI at the school and allowed him to get in contact with the students to see what change is needed.
In an email, Desiree Chen, senior director of communications and external relations, sent over the job prospectus outlining the responsibilities the position entails.
One of the main responsibilities of King’s position is reporting to President Troy VanAken, and overseeing institution-wide initiatives that promote EU’s vision regarding DEI.
“The new VP also will take part in all aspects of institutional planning in support of the University’s mission and goals that are designed to meet the needs of its diverse student body, faculty and staff,” reads the prospectus statement sent by Chen.
In an email statement to The Leader, VanAken expressed his thoughts on King and his previous work, and what he can bring to EU.
“Bruce’s extensive leadership experience, including his strong record in recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty and staff, was one of the main factors that distinguished him,” VanAken wrote. “In Bruce, we’ve found a leader who can bring his perspective, knowledge and experience to the work we’ve been doing at Elmhurst, and shape this new role in ways that will benefit our entire campus.”