Friday, April 23, 2021

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

Creating a future of equity, diversity, and inclusion through innovation and technology

There are many treasures in Las Vegas and one most valued notable will soon be retiring from her post: Dr. Barbee Oakes, Chief Diversity Officer for UNLV. Often described as a guru of diversity, equity and inclusion, Oakes has spent four years advancing inclusive programming that makes UNLV one of the most diverse universities in the nation. She has implemented a “Cultural Intelligence Leadership Series” that fosters a culture of inclusive excellence among senior administrators, academic leaders, and faculty. 

Barbee Oakes, Chief Diversity Officer

“Before coming to UNLV four years ago I was the Chief Diversity Officer at Wake Forest University in North Carolina,” said Oakes. “But I started getting interested in leaving because I wanted to work in an … environment that was more diverse — and when an employment search firm contacted me about the job at UNLV, I learned that UNLV ranked number 1 as the most diverse institution in the nation.” 

Her passion for the work is what drives Oakes to achieve her goals — by using her innate ability to identify and forecast the needs of students in a culturally diverse environment. “I was propelled to work at UNLV because of two major factors: one was the diversity of the student body in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in terms of the high percentage of first-generation college students,” she said. “I believed that there was a lot of instruction and support they would be needing that I could provide. And another reason was that the faculty should mirror the population composition of the student body. These were major contributors that convinced me to work at UNLV.” 

Oakes makes clear that diversity, equity and inclusion are not strictly tasks to accommodate the needs of minorities. Her talent for details is one that also includes others with diverse needs in the majority population and those marginalized because of their unique needs. 

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion is about race and ethnicity, but it is also about LGBTQ issues, religious diversity, undocumented students and more,” she said. “For example, we know that graduation rates for African-American students in Clark County are not as high as white students. There are issues surrounding this and performance in higher education. So it’s important to look at the totality of all issues in a student body and staff which are all different. It’s important to look at gender, sexuality, and surprisingly we have over 100 students from the foster care system and we also have to consider their needs. There is a non-traditional age population at UNLV and if those students bring their child on campus we provide them with private restrooms to use. I am proud to have addressed many needs of the student body and staff. There are ways to do this work so everyone wins — then that’s when you begin to move the needle. I have been wholeheartedly committed to the work for the time I’ve been at UNLV and so has the campus community. I have been so encouraged how the campus has embraced our vision to truly be an inclusive campus.”

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