Following an extensive national search of more than 100 applicants, Warren Wilson College has announced the appointment of Dr. Kortet Mensah as the inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Strategy.
The newly created position is responsible for guiding the efforts to conceptualize, design, assess, nurture, and cultivate inclusive and equitable diversity as an institutional and educational resource. It is a senior-level position reporting directly to the President of the college and sitting on the cabinet leadership team.
“Throughout the interview process, Dr. Mensah impressed us with her deep knowledge of DEI and extensive background in the work, as well as her warmth and ability to connect with everyone on campus,” said Dr. Lynn Morton, President of Warren Wilson College. “I truly enjoyed and learned from her thoughtful conversations with me throughout the search process, and the cabinet appreciated her depth of insight, candor, and collegiality. We are very excited to welcome her to the team.”
The position falls under Imperative #3 of Warren Wilson’s 2022 Strategic Plan. That imperative commits to a culture of educational access and ensuring that students and employees from a diverse range of identities and experiences will thrive in the Warren Wilson College community. In addition, the creation of a cabinet-level DEI position was one of the 16 demands put forward last year by the college’s Black Student Union.
Mensah comes to Warren Wilson from Bastyr University in Washington state, where she served as the Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer. There, she was the inaugural person in the role as well — establishing the DEI department and infusing that work into all aspects of the institution. She led university-wide conversations, provided mentorship, designed trainings, and led efforts in recruitment and program development to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
Mensah has spent more than 20 years in higher education and nearly a decade as a leader in DEI work. She earned her B.A. in Business Administration from Stephens College, her M.Ed. in Educational and Counseling Psychology, and her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at University of Missouri – Columbia.
At Warren Wilson, she will be responsible for leading the development of a unifying strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion at the college, in addition to playing a major role at the cabinet (administrative) level with strategic planning, implementation, reporting and evaluation as the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan closes and the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan launches.
“I’m honored to be joining Warren Wilson’s effort to strategically infuse DEI into its operations and community climate,” Mensah said. “Often, organizations express DEI desires with limited emphasis on strategy, intentionality, and racial justice, which are the bedrocks of DEI/social justice work. Warren Wilson bypasses these downfalls as evidenced by the title of the position, the college’s emphasis on racial equity as the core of its DEI work, and the focus of the campus community (including senior leaders) on hiring a leader who can help them engage in substantive organizational and individual work rooted in social justice.”
Mensah will work with every academic and administrative department across campus, including with the faculty Director of DEI Initiatives, the Wilson Inclusion Diversity and Equity (WIDE) director, the DEI Advisory Committee, the Office of Human Resources, and the Director of Institutional Effectiveness at a strategic level to advance the college’s strategic goals and objectives. She will also support students, faculty, and staff, and work with them towards addressing the demands of the Black Student Union as well as the demands of the Indigenous Student Association.
Members of the Warren Wilson campus community said they look forward to working with Mensah.
“Members of the search committee and the community said Mensah’s background in creating DEI structures, her ability to connect with people across campus, and her strong philosophy of connecting healing with bold action made her an extremely compelling candidate who is ready to jump in and make an impact at Warren Wilson,” Morton said. “Students commented that they were impressed with Mensah’s understanding of the community and the value she places on relationships. Staff and faculty noted her passion, strategic insight, and calming presence. Many conveyed confidence that she would be able to collaboratively and strategically build all of our capacity in the DEI space on campus.”
Mensah will begin the position in June.