SMU eNews

New Diversity Director Generates Action through Insight and Innovative Ideas

Kathleen Roberts, J.D., Ph.D. was named as Samuel Merritt University’s (SMU) Chief Diversity Officer/Executive Director of Diversity, effective May 31.  This position will play a major role in the development and implementation of SMU’s vision and strategy for diversity.

"In collaboration with all academic and administrative units, my goal is to provide leadership in supporting a learning and working environment in which diverse perspectives are respected and modeled, and in developing recruitment and retention strategies that will increase the diversity of students, faculty, and staff in ways that reflect the University’s surrounding communities," said Dr. Roberts.  

In her new role, Dr. Roberts reports to the President. "Our new diversity director brings years of experience working with students from many populations, collaborating with faculty and department heads on programming matters and curriculum development, and serving on University committees," said President Sharon Diaz. "Our Diversity Search Committee reviewed the files of several good candidates, and the process yielded a dynamic director for an important position."

Dr. Roberts is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and has traveled and lived in many places, including Japan, Nepal, Senegal, and several regions throughout the U.S.  "My early years were spent working as a dance therapist, yoga instructor, and as a crew chief on a fish processing ship in the Bering Sea." 

It wasn’t until after attending law school, where she worked as an Assistant Attorney General prosecuting white collar crime, and as Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Unit, investigating hate crimes, that Dr. Roberts became convinced of the critical role education plays in ensuring a more "socially just world."  She then obtained a position as Executive Director of Diversity & Equity at the University of Southern Maine, where eventually she was inspired to pursue a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University. Most recently Roberts was Executive Director of the Office of EEO & Diversity at Idaho State University.

"I am excited to be at Samuel Merritt University because of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity in the Oakland area and my keen interest in the health issues facing our society," said Dr. Roberts.  "I also sensed, during my initial visits, that SMU was an organization committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, and most importantly, one willing to continually engage in self-reflection in order to better understand how to exemplify this commitment."  The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is available to all SMU community faculty, staff, and students.

  Kathleen Roberts, Diversity Director

Did You Know...

Roberts explains that her vision and actions are guided by the following quote, "If you can do it alone, it’s not big enough and if you can’t do it with others, you’re not big enough."

She looks forward to working with the SMU community to "enlarge ourselves as individuals, as a community, and as a university."  That is why on Sept. 14th at Town Hall Roberts will be hosting SMU’s first World Café - a powerful process for engaging in high quality conversations that matter.

"The theme for the Café will revolve around building a diverse and inclusive community through engagement," explains Roberts.  "The intention for the Café is to catalyze your insights and innovative ideas in order to generate ACTION and to have fun!"  Town Hall will be held at HEC, Bechtel Room from 10:00 a.m. to noon.