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The Blue & Gray Press | August 18, 2019

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UMW welcomes new chief diversity officer

UMW welcomes new chief diversity officer


Staff Writer

On Jan. 18, UMW President Troy Paino took the stage at a spring assembly of University faculty and staff, standing before the audience with an exciting announcement. Paino recently created a new cabinet-level position, and was appointing a new chief diversity officer to UMW.

Sabrina Johnson was named the vice president for equity and access for the University at the assembly. This position will allow her to focus on and reinforce “UMW’s commitment to greater diversity and inclusion,” says an article on the UMW website.

Johnson, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and recipient of a juris doctorate from the College of William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law, will use her new position to maintain and strengthen the University’s diversity programs. She will provide strategies and leadership to the university wide equity, access, and inclusion programs, states an article written by Marty Morrison, UMW’s Director of Media and Public Relations.

“I’m very excited about being accountable to the commitments that we put in place,” said Johnson. “I’m seeing this role as strategic leadership to progress.”

Although her position is new, Johnson is not unfamiliar with the topics of diversity and inclusion. Johnson served as the University’s affirmative action and equal employment opportunity officer for almost two decades. Over the last 10 years, Johnson served as the chair of the advisory committee on diversity and community values, as well as being the co-chair of Paino’s task force on diversity and inclusion. She also most recently held the role of the University’s associate vice president of human resources.

Johnson accredits her passion for diversity to her family and upbringing. Her parents, siblings, and childhood instilled her drive for inclusion and community well-being.

“I come out of a family with the tradition of being activists,” said Johnson. “My dad was very important in integrating schools and [my family] are very civic minded people. All of my siblings have come up in helping fields.”

Together, Paino and Johnson will work together to ensure that UMW reaches the highest capacities it has for diversity, access, and inclusion. Creating a more diverse and inclusive environment at UMW is one of Paino’s top priorities as President of the University. He also hopes to promote a culture of service and community as well as provide students with the most impactful learning experiences possible, says Morrison’s article.

Paino and Johnson plan to work together to create an inclusive and diverse environment on campus.

“What I really appreciate about Troy Paino is his dedication to help young people in preparation for their futures,” said Johnson.

Since the announcement of her new position, Johnson has already started to think about how UMW’s diversity initiatives can improve.

“I’d like to see us better coordinate the good work that is going on,” said Johnson. “We’re all doing the best we can but if we can find the natural synergies [within the school] that will help. We’re [also] committed to increasing the diversity of the faculty.”

Johnson looks forward to and hopes to encourage the growth of the University’s diversity efforts. She also wants to see more use of the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

“As we go through this process, there’s going to be organic expansion,” said Johnson. “We have to understand who we are and what works best for us.”

Johnson wants to use the knowledge of the past to help improve the University’s diversity and equity programs.   

“We have to embrace past issues,” said Johnson. “We have got to end up where we can come together.”