Lisa M. Coleman, Ph.D.: Leading the Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion

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By Josefina Bonilla

Dr. Lisa M. Coleman is the Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation and Chief Diversity Officer for New York University (NYU).

Prior to her role at NYU, Dr. Coleman was Harvard University’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer and Special Assistant to the President.

In her role, Dr. Coleman is responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives across NYU’s schools, centers, and leadership programs.

“Institutions of higher education mainly used lawyers to address issues of diversity and inclusion,” says Coleman. “What everybody really needed was an office to manage the current policies and compliances as well as be more proactive for the future.”

The office of institutional diversity was newly created and Coleman was determined to start it off in the right direction. The goal of the new office and position is to have better communication and discussions about diversity and inclusion within Harvard University’s community.

Because the world of diversity and inclusion moves so quickly, Coleman tries to balance everything by keeping up-to-date on new rules and regulations as often as she can.

“The culture we live in changes on a daily basis, too,” says Coleman. “Part of my job is keeping up with those changes and seeing that the ones that are applicable become part of the school culture.”

Dr. Coleman received her doctorate from New York University in Social and Cultural Analysis, American Studies. In addition to this, Coleman has also earned not one, but three master’s degrees in African and African American Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Communication Studies from Ohio State University.

In the past, she has directed the Africana program at Tufts University. She was the first Senior Diversity Officer that the university has ever had. She has also received numerous awards for her work in teaching and academic leadership, as well as disability and gender equality.

Dr. Lisa Coleman’s goals are all about educating others on issues of diversity and inclusion. She is focused on bringing out and celebrating the characteristics that make us all unique. Dr. Coleman believes that people deserve to showcase what makes them different, no matter what side of diversity they come from.

She wants to ensure that all underrepresented communities have a voice, can join together, and achieve any and every one of their goals. Her hard work and dedication to obtaining that goal are inspiring.

Dr. Coleman aims to be a force of change and she encourages others to do the same.

“I think the key to any understanding between cultures is education and communication,” says Dr. Coleman. “With increased education comes increased curiosity, but oftentimes people are afraid to start the conversation. I aim to change that.”

This article was updated on Feb 19, 2018, by Evan J. Cutts