“Western and higher-education institutions across the country have a moral imperative to expand access to higher education, particularly for students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. But we have an added responsibility that goes beyond access; we need to ensure success is attainable for all students as well. Advancing access and success for all students is one of the most courageous and concrete ways to ensure equity, inclusion, and opportunity.” — Sabah Randhawa, President



Western Washington University, recognized for the quality of its academic programs and emphasis on social mobility, research, and public service, is seeking an inaugural chief diversity officer (CDO).

The Position


The main campus of Western Washington University is located on 212 picturesque acres in Bellingham, Washington, a city of about 90,000 people located between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and adjacent to the beautiful San Juan Islands, Bellingham is nationally recognized for quality of life, outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship. As the third largest university in the State of Washington, Western enrolls over 16,000 students in more than 160 academic programs at the Bellingham campus and seven satellite locations around the Puget Sound area.

Western, which first opened its doors in 1899, is perennially ranked among the top ten public, master’s-granting university in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report college rankings, and Western is ranked 20th in the nation by Washington Monthly. Kiplinger’s ranks Western among the top 100 public colleges and universities in the nation that offer the best quality and affordability. U.S. News and World Report has named Western one of the most cost-efficient in the country among highly ranked universities and for several years in a row the Chronicle of Higher Education has recognized Western as a “Great Place to Work.” Western is particularly proud of its position as a leader in multidisciplinary environmental education and sustainable campus operations.

Western provides an active student-centered learning environment with a liberal arts and sciences foundation and robust co-curricular, internship, research, creative, and service learning opportunities. There is a widely shared vision that Western will be a higher education leader in a culturally responsive 21st century learning environment, applying its critical strengths to societal issues as well as creating a welcoming community for a diversity of people, ideas, and programs. To that end, Western has embraced a style that is collegial, transparent, and timely in its engagement and communication with on- and off-campus stakeholders.

Western is not only committed to the academic growth of its students, but to empowering them to be engaged and active agents of positive change in the world. Western is one of the top ranked universities in the nation among medium-sized universities for Peace Corps participation and for the number of its graduates awarded Fulbright Fellowships.  Western is classified as a Carnegie Community Engagement University. Western has been designated a “Military Friendly School,” for the six consecutive years by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

Western Washington University is composed of seven colleges and the Graduate School:

  • College of Business and Economics
  • College of Fine and Performing Arts
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • College of Science and Engineering
  • Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • College of the Environment
  • Woodring College of Education

The university’s strategic plan, completed in 2018, defines aspirational goals for Western over the next several years around three core themes: advancing inclusive success, increasing Washington impact, and enhancing academic excellence. The strategic plan makes good on Western’s commitment to an equitable and transformative education for all students and its commitment to increasing Western’s impact in the state and beyond.



Western Washington University’s 2018 – 2025 strategic plan recognizes that our single most important challenge is to eliminate opportunity gaps for students from diverse and under-represented socio-economic backgrounds and increase such graduates, and to ensure substantive improvement in persistence and graduation rates for all students. The strategic plan clearly defines our accountability measures — metrics associated with retention and graduation rates, closing opportunity gaps, degree expansion to meet the needs of Washington employers, and institutional climate.

Western’s approach to accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI) work has been based on a recognition of needed progress in three essential areas: resources and support, systems and structures, and learning and traditions. Along with accountability measures, these three elements comprise the framework for the institution’s efforts over the past three years. The university has made significant investments of time, effort and resources across the university to help advance several key aspects of the ADEI framework; these are detailed on the following web page: https://president.wwu.edu/advancing-diversity-and-inclusion-western

The issues and challenges facing Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in our communities have been further aggravated by the twin pandemics—health and social. To intentionally and effectively address those issues, in 2021 the university began the process to formally establish an institutional-level Office of Equity. Establishing this office also honors the many voices who have been speaking for some time about the need to build central ADEI leadership into university’s organizational structure to better coordinate and elevate this work across campus. The direction is also informed by work of the Council for Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice; Social Justice and Equity Committee; and more recent Structural Equity and Bias Response Team.

The Office of Equity brings together two complementary functions: the existing compliance function and a more robust community education and training function. While the compliance function is currently housed in the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance, the vision for the new Office of Equity is much broader than the traditional compliance function. An assessment of patterns in compliance issues can lead to a deeper understanding of barriers in Western’s systems and structures. The Office of Equity also encompasses the broader functions of engaging individuals and groups in education, dialogue and learning; building community; examining Western’s systems and structures through an equity lens; and providing visibility to, and advancing, key initiatives for inclusive student success and ADEI work on campus. Toward this end, the chief diversity officer will have the opportunity to identify important roles for this function and to hire for positions to carry them out.

In its work, the Office of Equity will partner with academic colleges, divisions, departments, and programs across the institution. In many ways, the work of the Office of Equity is to provide broad alignment across the university with institutional goals for ADEI, develop allyships to advance key priorities, and work with the president and the executive and academic leadership team of the university to ensure that the institution is making meaningful progress on its ADEI goals and metrics.


The Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) will provide oversight, leadership and vision for institutionalizing accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI) in the culture and practices of the institution. The CDO will provide broad oversight for policies and initiatives to promote a learning and work environment where ADEI is valued and integrated in institutional planning and operations. The position will also oversee the newly created Office of Equity.

The CDO reports directly to the president of the university. A member of the president’s cabinet, the CDO is a core partner of the senior leadership team and works closely and in collaboration with other members of the team to advance the university’s strategic aspirations for excellence and equity.

Building on the current ADEI work and Western’s community’s passion for diversity, equity and social justice, the CDO will lead the institution in cultivating and sustaining a caring community focused on shared values of respect, compassion, kindness, civility, excellence, and collaboration. The CDO will be responsible for stewarding Western’s commitment to ADEI, catalyzing institutional change necessary for deepening and strengthening that commitment.

The CDO will work in close collaboration with other leaders and partners to develop and implement an action plan that leverages current efforts, sets stretch goals and targets, measures progress and evaluates impact, and establishes an accountability framework that makes ADEI a shared responsibility.

The CDO will serve as partner, providing counsel to executive and academic leadership and support to committees and groups engaged in advancing ADEI work. The CDO will serve as a central spokesperson for ADEI matters, bringing together broad-based coalitions and alliances to enrich efforts across the university, including dissemination of best practices. The CDO will also serve as an ambassador and partner with the external community, including Washington State’s Office of Equity.


The CDO will join the university at an exciting time. Western Washington University is recognized as the best masters-granting comprehensive institution in the Pacific Northwest and one of the best in the nation for the quality of its academic programs and because of its emphasis on social mobility, research and public service.

Recognizing the challenges facing our society, the university has developed an ambitious strategic plan (Strategic Plan 2018-2025) to advance inclusive student success, increase Washington impact and enhance academic excellence.

The CDO will be expected to address the following opportunities and challenges, among others:

Lead the development of a unifying strategic vision and plan for ADEI at Western

The CDO will formulate and articulate a vision for ADEI at Western for the present moment and as the university’s understanding of the needs and aspirations of its community evolves and changes over time. The Structural Equity Team (SET) is currently conducting an inventory of current ADEI educational and development initiatives at Western, and the CDO will build on this work in order to identify strengths, gaps, and opportunities, and take steps to bring them together into a cogent, powerful whole. The CDO will design, develop, and execute an overarching plan for ADEI in collaboration with all internal university partners, including senior academic and administrative leadership, faculty, staff, and students as well as a diverse array of external partners and communities. The CDO will work with the colleges and administrative units on their ADEI plans, and coordinate and convene their unit-level ADEI leaders to share best practices and support their planning and implementation efforts.

Enhance recruitment, retention, and success of an increasingly diverse community

A critical element of the university’s efforts to increase recruitment, retention and success of its students, faculty and staff is to foster a caring and supportive environment where all members are respected and treated fairly. Increasing access and success for BIPOC students requires a deeper understanding of assets they bring to their learning experiences and implementing strategies that build from their experiences and knowledge. The CDO will lead efforts to remove barriers to access and progress and strengthen practices that support students and enable them to grow holistically.

The Provost’s Diversity and Inclusion Hiring Initiative, introduced in 2018, has produced promising results in recruiting faculty committed and qualified to cultivating equitable and inclusive learning and work environments to ensure success for all students at Western, as well hiring more diverse faculty. The CDO will be responsible for further enhancing this program and expanding it to hiring of all faculty and staff at Western.

Strengthen the Office of Equity

The CDO will have the opportunity to strengthen the compliance function and to create and expand the educational function of the Office of Equity. While there have been certain educational components that have been delivered by various institutional partners, creating a holistic community education and training function under the auspice of one office is a new effort with the potential to influence every area of the university. The CDO will lead this effort, in the process identifying opportunities for necessary strategic investment to advance the ADEI agenda and strategic priorities of the university.

Serve as a collaborative partner to empower and coordinate ADEI activities

The CDO will serve as collaborative thought partner with faculty and staff to leverage expertise and partnerships across the university. The CDO will serve as a catalyst to deepen relationships with several groups working on various important dimensions of ADEI work, including the Offices of LGBTQ+, Tribal Liaison, and Multicultural Services, and several other groups, including relevant committees of the Faculty Senate; Council for Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice; Social Justice and Equity Committee; Structural Equity and Bias Response Team; and Faculty and Staff of Color Council. The CDO will also liaise with Associated Students and other relevant student groups and organizations.

The CDO will be a trusted advisor to the president, the cabinet and academic leadership on matters pertaining to ADEI and integrating best practices in the work of the university.

Create a culture of assessment and accountability for ADEI work

The CDO will continuously assess the impact of ADEI activities and initiatives on institutional goals and priorities. The CDO will work in partnership with divisions, colleges and units to operationalize a transparent accountability framework. The CDO will lead the process of administering climate surveys on a regular basis to assess the climate at Western, analyze survey results, and identify action needed to align the climate with institutional values and goals.

Lead equity-focused policy analysis

The CDO will lead efforts to assess university policies and practices from an equity lens to identify areas of improvement and enhancement. The CDO will work with other members of the leadership team to make changes to remove structural bias in systems and structures.

Serve as an advocate internally and enrich external connections

The CDO will serve as a champion and advocate for the university’s vision for excellence and inclusion. The CDO will improve communication of ADEI related programs, initiatives, best practices, and events across the university.

The university’s work has been unfolding against the backdrop of work happening in the community and at the state level. The Washington Legislature and Governor Jay Inslee have established a statewide Office of Equity to work with state agencies, including state universities, to increase access to equitable opportunities to bridge opportunity gaps and reduce disparities. The CDO will serve as Western’s liaison to the state office and to other relevant groups in the region, including the K-20 education sector.



The successful candidate for the CDO position will be an experienced leader and a strategic partner with a high level of enthusiasm and energy to institutionalize diversity and equity in the culture and practices of the institution. The CDO must have the ability to develop constructive relationships and partnerships across the university and the organizational acumen to engage the Western community in difficult, yet productive conversations in addressing complex socio-political issues that impact university community and institutional culture and climate.


The CDO will be a seasoned administrator with experience in leading programs to new levels of excellence and impact. The successful leader will be a strong advocate for ADEI and a community builder who has understanding and experience to develop and advance a positive and inclusive climate for all members of the Western community.

The ideal candidate will possess the following qualifications:

  • Demonstrated record of progressive leadership with a focus on accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Strong record of accomplishment in developing, implementing and championing strategic ADEI initiatives, preferably in a higher education environment.
  • Demonstrated leadership ability with a proven record of working with all levels of leadership.
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills and demonstrated potential to build coalitions and partnerships in a large decentralized university and the broader local community.
  • Demonstrated cross-cultural competencies and the ability to engage and build relationships to foster a sense of community and belonging.
  • A deep understanding and sensitivity to the experiences of marginalized people.
  • Superb written and oral communication skills that raise the voices of diverse stakeholders and inspire support for Western’s vision of ADEI both inside and outside of the university.
  • Proficiency at navigating and responding to politically charged or sensitive situations with tact and diplomacy.
  • Understanding of Title VII, Title IX, ADA, and EEO/AA.
  • A terminal degree is desired but not required.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications is underway and will continue until the position is filled.  To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson by phone at 413-529-2895 or email at info@spelmanjohnson.com.

Confidential inquiries and nominations should be directed to Jim Norfleet, Practice Leader and Senior Consultant, at jmn@spelmanjohnson.com

Visit the Western Washington University website at www.wwu.edu

Western Washington University (WWU) is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer committed to assembling a diverse, broadly trained faculty and staff. Women, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. In compliance with applicable laws and in furtherance of its commitment to fostering an environment that welcomes and embraces diversity, WWU does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and parenting status), disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status or genetic information in its programs or activities, including employment, admissions, and educational programs.


Western Washington University: Leadership and Location


Sabah Randhawa, PhD, President

Sabah Randhawa began service as the 14th president of Western Washington University on August 1, 2016. He draws on more than three decades of distinguished service in higher education as an educator and an academic leader.

Before coming to Western, Randhawa served as provost and executive vice president at Oregon State University from June 2005 through July 2016. Previous to becoming OSU’s provost, Randhawa was vice provost for academic affairs and international programs at OSU from 2001 to 2004. He was interim dean of OSU’s College of Business from 2001 to 2002, and prior to that, associate dean for operations in the OSU College of Engineering from 1999 to 2000 and department head of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering from 1993 to 1999.

During his tenure, OSU experienced a period of extraordinary growth. Student enrollment surged, the campus and educational programs expanded, and many new facilities were built. The OSU-Cascades Campus was developed, and the university’s first comprehensive fundraising initiative, the Campaign for OSU, raised $1.14 billion.

Randhawa’s academic background includes a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1976 from the University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan. He earned his master’s degree in industrial engineering from OSU in 1980 and his doctorate from Arizona State University, also in industrial engineering, in 1983. His scholarship focuses on applications of operations research, simulation and decision sciences.

Randhawa’s top priority at Western has been advancing student success and inclusive excellence. Among the many things that drew him to Western are its strong retention and graduation rates, which he sees as a foundation for advancing the success of more underrepresented students in the State of Washington and beyond.

As a first generation college graduate, Randhawa has witnessed the transformative power of higher education in his own life, and is committed to making it more accessible, affordable, and attainable to people in the State of Washington, the region, and around the globe.

The university’s organizational chart is available at: https://www.wwu.edu/files/2022-01/WWU-OrgChart%20-%2001.19.22.pdf.


Bordering British Columbia, Canada and the Bellingham Bay, Whatcom County combines local industry, various outdoor activities, the savvy of a college town, and a robust lifestyle dating back to 1854. The area is filled with magnificent scenery; a culture of outdoor recreation; environmental activism; the Alaska Ferry; the Canadian border; Mt. Baker and the Cascade Mountain Range; the Salish Sea; and local food, spirits, art, and music. These are all part of the genuine Whatcom County experience.Whatcom County and the Pacific Northwest have some of the most scenic views in the country. Where else are there views of the ocean, islands, lush greenery, forests, and mountains – and some properties have all four views! Combine that incredible landscape with a temperate climate and no wonder Whatcom County continually ranks high in “best places to live” surveys.

With a population of 89,000, Bellingham is a welcoming and safe community offering the advantages of a larger city and charm of a coastal town. Western calls Bellingham an adventure, a breath of fresh air, and a great place to call home. A vibrant downtown, thriving arts and music scenes, and an easy drive to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. all make Bellingham an ideal college town. Whether a bike rider, bus rider, or a pedestrian, the city is never more than fifteen minutes away from campus. Bellingham is host to an endless number of activities to discover.