VPSA Appoints New Diversity Director

Last September, the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs announced that it would create a new position to provide support for first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and to foster the spirit of diversity throughout the Stanford community.

The position, titled “Director of Diversity and First-Generation Programs,” is funded by an anonymous donor and the program is the successor of the previous First Generation Program, which the University cut in 2008 due to budget restrictions.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA) announced earlier this month that the search and selection committee – which consisted of students, faculty and alumni – selected Tommy Lee Woon, current dean of multicultural life at Macalester College, as the director of the new program. Woon will arrive on the Farm this April.

Current Stanford diversity programs are far-reaching and wide-ranging, including prominent organizations such as Women’s Community Center, Black Student Union, El Centro Chicano, the LGBT Community Resources Center, in addition to academic diversity programs such as the Engineering Diversity Program, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, and the School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence in Diversity.

When interviewed by The Review earlier this school year, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Sally Dickson remarked that “…community centers serve an important supportive resource for students, and this new office will be working collaboratively with them and other units across campus.” Dickson did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

The position created by the VPSA is an ambitious one. Woon will be tasked with not only extending the reach of diversity programs to low-income and first-generation students, but also with organizing, collaborating with, and bringing together the large host of diversity programs Stanford has to offer.

Michael Albada ’11, head of the First Generation Low Income Partnership, remarked, “I think the new position of Associate Dean and Director of First Gen Programs will more than fill the void left by the elimination of the [First Generation Program]… Tommy Woon will have far more support to develop a program for first generation and low income students, and also a greater ability to galvanize support…”

Albada, who was also on the office’s candidate search committee, described Woon as “someone with tremendous experience, insight, and wisdom. He has been working on various aspects of diversity for over twenty years and has a nuanced understanding of the complexities of race and class in America.”

Woon, who did not respond to requests for comment, has served at Stanford in the past. From 1993 to 2002, he served as an assistant dean of students and as a multicultural educator. Additionally, he taught at the Stanford School of Medicine and was one of the developers of the Public Service Medical Scholars program, which serves to prepare students at the School of Medicine for careers in public service and research.

Woon has the background and experience to fill that role. After leaving Stanford in 2002, he served at Dartmouth College in the capacity of associate dean of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership (OPAL). Like his new position at Stanford, Woon had no predecessor at Dartmouth.

A 2006 article in The Dartmouth regarding Woon’s departure remarked on his ability to bring not only minority students together through diversity programs, but many white students as well: “[Woon] said that OPAL’s ‘comprehensive and integrated approach’ may have won over early critics who expected the office to serve only minority students, pointing out that the majority of students involved at OPAL events are white.”

At Stanford, Woon’s position will call on him to employ his background to create a program to foster support for students from families with few or no college graduates, thereby easing the transition for students whose experiences at Stanford may be overshadowed by family monetary difficulty or parents who are unfamiliar with the college experience.

Woon recieved a Master’s degree in Counseling from California State University-Sacramento in 1977, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Davis in 1974, and an Associate of Arts from the College of San Mateo in 1970.

After finishing his education, he served in diversity and student affairs roles at Brown University and Oberlin College before first coming to Stanford in 1993.

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