Interim Chief Diversity Officer Lena Hill speaks in the IMU on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. The presentation gave updates on diversity and other University of Iowa statistics. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

Hill to leave UI, become dean of the College at Washington and Lee University

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After more than a decade as a Hawkeye, Lena Hill will leave the UI to serve as dean of the College at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

By Marissa Payne

marissa-payne@uiowa.edu

Interim Chief Diversity Officer Lena Hill will soon make a return to the academic side of university work — but when she does so, she will no longer be at the University of Iowa.

Hill has been appointed as dean of the College at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Her final day at the UI will be May 25.

“[My husband and I] feel really fortunate to be in a position where leaving this job is as difficult as it will be because we have been so connected to the university and to the community,” she told The Daily Iowan.

Since then-Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge left the UI in July 2017 to become associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bucknell University, Hill has filled the role on an interim basis.

“Lena has worked tirelessly over the past year, urging us to survey our campus and truly reflect on our weaknesses and bringing the campus together to engage in conversations in order to improve,” UI President Bruce Harreld said in a press release.

Hill said she was not looking to be lured away from the UI, but she is eager to be closer to her family in Georgia and to focus on the university’s academic work. She hopes to eventually return to the classroom as a professor once she becomes more accustomed to her new role.

Undergraduate enrollment is around 1,800 at Washington and Lee, a small liberal-arts institution. Hill said the bar is set high, but she is excited about the new opportunity. Particularly, she looks forward to reimagining the university’s general-education curriculum and mentoring faculty through the entirety of their careers.

“I saw the opportunities that they had and how I could imagine serving there,” she said. “I think when you start to think about fit, you think about what would I bring to a place like that that would improve it, that would add to it, not how I would change it to be something different. I think you have to fundamentally respect what an institution is. The identity of Washington and Lee is one that I respect.”

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Hill and her husband, Michael Hill, UI associate professor of English, co-edited Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era during their time at the UI. He will also work at Washington and Lee, serving as a full professor in Africana studies with an appointment in English.

“That’s a story we should tell about the University of Iowa,” she said. “It’s not a perfect story. It’s not a story without its complexities and nuances, but that’s life; that’s the human story. It does have some things that are worth celebrating. We will always cherish the opportunity to have done that work.”

Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers will retain her current role while serving as interim chief diversity officer. The UI will launch a national search later this semester or early summer.

Shivers said in the release that she is excited to partner with Harreld and other members of the UI community to identify strong candidates for the position and select a person who will move the UI forward in the role.

“I have been grateful for the support I’ve received during my first year and for the work Lena and her team have done to put us on a path toward success,” she said. “I am eager to work with the Chief Diversity Office staff and our campus community to continue advancing ‘excellence through diversity.’ ”

 

Career highlights

• Spending 12 years at the UI as a faculty member in English and African American studies

• Encouraging the use of surveys to assess the campus climate

Documenting the stories of lesser-known Hawkeyes in Invisible Hawkeyes

Working collaboratively to be a voice of the faculty to the administration

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