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August 8, 2018

Q & A with Donald C. Sawyer III, chief diversity officer, Quinnipiac University

Photo | Quinnipiac University Donald C. Sawyer III.

Donald C. Sawyer III is interested in people's stories.

As a photographer who runs an independent photography business he documents them, and as associate vice president and chief diversity officer at Quinnipiac University, he works to assist students through their college and life's journey.

The New York native was appointed to his Quinnipiac post in April. Chief diversity officer is a position that has become more prevalent at companies and on campuses nationwide as organizations look to recruit and retain talent and students from varied backgrounds and cultures.

In addition to other responsibilities, Sawyer is charged with creating a strategic vision for inclusive excellence at all three campuses of the Hamden-based university.

Q: Are there any issues surrounding diversity on college and university campuses that are specific to, or more prevalent in Connecticut?

A: I believe there are similar issues across the nation related to diversity and inclusion. I just returned from an institute for diversity officers across the nation, and many of us shared the same concerns: political climate, changing demographics of the college-going population, diversifying the curriculum, recruiting and retaining diverse faculty/staff/students, creating a diverse and inclusive campus, etc.

Q: What do you see as the most important issue with regard to diversity facing universities?

A: One of the main challenges is articulating what diversity and inclusion means for an institution. Diversity has become a buzzword with multiple meanings. The focus is shifting from representative diversity to more active engagement and inclusion of diverse communities on campus.

Q: What is your first priority in terms of academics, and your first priority in terms of diversity at Quinnipiac?

A: My first academic priority is to continue to work with faculty senate to diversify course offerings in our general curriculum. As far as diversity, I will be working with campus partners to create a new diversity and inclusion strategic plan.

Q: As a photographer, what are your favorite subjects to shoot?

A: I like shooting portraits of people and asking others to look at the captured faces and write down the stories they tell.

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