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September 21, 2011
By Jane Tors
Reg Chhen Stewart has been named director of diversity initiatives, a new role signaling the University of Nevada, Reno’s commitment to support and develop diversity in the composition of the faculty, administration, staff and student body. Stewart will continue to oversee the University’s successful Center for Student Cultural Diversity, which he has directed since 2003.
The number of underrepresented students choosing to attend the University has continued to grow, and this fall the enrollment of students of color is up 8 percent over the prior year. Twenty-six percent of the University’s fall 2011 student enrollment is comprised of students of color.
In addition to ethnic diversity, diversity initiatives will encompass age, gender, abilities/disabilities, cultural, sexual orientation, socio-economic and “first generation” students who are of the first generation in their families to attend college. Over the past five years, the number of students meeting the income eligibility for Pell Grants has more than doubled. In fall 2006, 11 percent of students were Pell eligible. In fall 2010, the figure had grown to 24 percent. Enrollment of student veterans is also increasing, and these students bring diversity of experience and age. Students using Veterans Administration education benefits increased 22 percent in fall 2009 and another 18 percent in fall 2010.
“The University’s mission statement calls for a broad definition of diversity,” said University President Marc Johnson. “We are preparing students for increasingly diverse work settings and for the global economy, so there is an important workforce development component to our commitment. Just as important, diversity of our faculty, staff and students contributes to diversity of ideas and viewpoints. It enriches the college experience.”
Stewart helped conceptualize and led the development of the Center for Student Cultural Diversity’s College Life 101, a comprehensive program aimed at improving student retention. The result is a 95 percent retention rate for students who regularly visit the center and utilize the resources it offers. Last spring, College Life 101 was recognized nationally as one of six top programs of its kind, and was presented a CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award by the College Board, a national organization promoting excellence and equity in education.
“While there is still work to be done, we have demonstrated our ability to lead the nation in efforts toward retaining and developing underrepresented students at the University of Nevada, Reno,” said Stewart.
“We fully realize that attention must also be paid to the recruitment, but equally important, the support of underrepresented faculty at the University,” he said. “As director of diversity initiatives, dividing my time between both the student and faculty components of diversity leadership give me the opportunity to do this.”
Stewart will serve as the University’s chief diversity officer and represent the University on the Nevada System of Higher Education Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council. He will report to Johnson and serve as a member of the President’s Council and the Academic Leadership Council, and he will retain a dual reporting relationship within the Division of Student Services for his continued work with the Center for Student Cultural Diversity, located on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Stewart brings 20 years of equity and diversity leadership experience in higher education to the director of diversity initiatives role. Prior to coming to Nevada in 1996, Stewart coordinated the alternative testing accommodations in the Disability Resource Center at San Francisco State University and was Upward Bound coordinator in the federally funded TRIO Program at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a master’s degree in counseling education and bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Francisco State University.
An Oakland, Calif., native with family roots in New Orleans, Stewart is the first person in his family to graduate from college. Through his membership in Alpha Phi Alpha, Stewart continues to mentor young men who wish to graduate from college and obtain graduate and professional degrees.