Diversity & Inclusion

Office of University Diversity and Inclusion


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Dr. Denise Isom Named Interim Vice President

Dr. Denise Isom, chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, has been appointed to serve as the Interim Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer.

Dr. Isom is returning to lead OUDI after having previously served as the office’s interim Assistant Director and interim Director. Her scholarship and research agenda centers on racialized gender identity and has been published in numerous books and academic journals and she is the co-author of the forthcoming book “Multicultural Psychology: Self, Society, and Social Change”. Dr. Isom has been widely recognized for her many contributions to the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work over the years, including having received the 2020 Martin Luther King Legacy Award this past February.

Dr. Isom received her doctorate from Loyola University in Chicago in Socio-Cultural Anthropology of Education, and holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, a B.S. degree in Engineering, and a B.A. degree in African American studies from the University of California at Davis.

Interim Vice President Denise Isom's Message to Campus

Below is a message sent to the Cal Poly campus on Friday, July 10, 2020

Hello, if I have not had the chance to meet you before, my name is Dr. Denise Isom. For the last several years it has been my honor to serve as the Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, and during that time I spent a couple of years serving in various roles in the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI), including Interim Director. It is now my pleasure to return to that office as the Interim Vice President. 

This seems a perfect time for me to address the emotion and complexity of this moment, as well as introduce my hope for OUDI’s role in assisting us in moving forward toward healing and embracing our common desire to see Cal Poly live out its values around equity, our, as Dr. King described it, arc "towards justice." 

What emerged around the transition in the VP position in OUDI was difficult, to say the least. For some of our campus community, it raised a myriad of issues and emotions, including real pain, anger, hurt, and fear. So many of the messages and emails we received were clear cries, to be heard, seen, and to feel safe. This moment was also interwoven with the depths of emotion around sexual assault, all within a national context marked by racial violence and assaults on Title IX, gender equity, and the rights of so many; not to mention a global pandemic! So many of us are hurting.

We hear you. I will keep listening and I will work intentionally to heal and strengthen our sense of community and belonging at Cal Poly. Though the pain born of this time was palpable for so many, what was equally evident, was our collective desire for substantive change around diversity and equity. I hope to capture that energy, and to assist in leading OUDI forward in enacting and sharing that vision. To that end, I will be establishing an OUDI Advisory Council, made up of diversity and equity leaders from around our campus community – myriad of voices, shared vision, active collaborative networks.

Join me, in helping us move towards healing and hope, in continuing to push our arc ever towards justice.

Dr. Denise Isom
Interim Vice President
Office of Univeristy Diversity & Inclusion

Update Regarding International Students

Below is a message sent to the Cal Poly community on Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Students and Campus Community,

I have been watching with concern the news about the recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement of new guidelines for fall 2020 that could profoundly affect our international students, valued members of our Mustang family. I am writing to let you know that I understand that the announcement has caused a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for our students, their families and all of us who support them. We stand in steadfast support of our international students and appreciate the deep concern expressed by so many.

Yesterday it was announced that the CSU and California Community Colleges have joined California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in filing a lawsuit challenging the recent ICE policy guidance related to international students. The full press release can be found here: https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-becerra-state-public-education-leaders-sue-trump-administration

As CSU Chancellor Timothy White aptly stated: "The California State University stands in the strongest opposition to the policy guidance issued Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs EnforcementIt is a callous and inflexible policy that unfairly disrupts our more-than 10,300 international students' progress to a degree, unnecessarily placing them in an extremely difficult position. And it deprives all of our students - and the communities, state, and nation we serve - of the remarkable contributions of these international students. The CSU applauds the California Attorney General's decision to take strong action to oppose ICE's policy guidance, and we will fully support this effort."

Further information and guidelines are forthcoming from the Chancellor's Office regarding how we can best support our international students. We  recognize the urgency of the situation and will send out the information as soon as possible. We have a strong commitment to bring Cal Poly to the world and the world to Cal Poly, and will work to ensure a productive and educationally enriching fall for our international students.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong

Cari Vanderkar, Ph.D.
Senior International Officer & Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs

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