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Announcing MSU Denver’s new VP for Diversity and Inclusion

Michael Benitez will join the University community Sept. 3

By Lindsey Coulter

August 6, 2019

Michael BenitezMichael Benitez Jr., Ph.D., is the new vice president for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Benitez was selected following a broad search that returned a number of excellent and highly qualified candidates and will begin his new role Sept. 3.

“I am incredibly excited about the work ahead at MSU Denver during this time… to continue to strengthen (our) position as a preeminent public-urban University,” Benitez said.

Benitez has served as chief diversity officer, dean of diversity and inclusion, and Title IX officer and EEO officer for the University of Puget Sound since 2013, leading development and implementation of the school’s diversity strategic plan. This included oversight of access and achievement programs, campus environment assessment, campus climate resource cultivation and collaboration with broad constituent groups to advance the institution’s diversity goals.

While at Puget Sound, Benitez helped establish programs such as the Northwest 5 Consortium for Supporting Faculty of Color, Access Scholars Cohort program, an annual faculty retreat for culturally responsive pedagogy and a community participatory model for difficult campus climate conversations, among other efforts aimed at fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment. He also served on the school’s Race and Pedagogy Institute leadership team; played an instrumental role on recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff; recruitment and retention of a diverse student body; and ongoing cultivation of a welcoming and inclusive campus community.

Prior to that, Benitez served as research assistant on student retention for the Office of Student Affairs at Iowa State University, directed several liberal arts offices focused on diversity initiatives, intercultural engagement and leadership; this involved designing and implementing new programs in mentorship, student leadership, inclusive pedagogy, student-identity development and academic excellence.

“Michael has spent his career promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and access – values that are at the very core of MSU Denver and core to this newly elevated position,” said President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “He also approaches these values from both an academic and a human perspective. He’s an established expert in the diversity-and-inclusion space, but he’s also had great success putting theory to action and helping build more just and equitable teaching and learning environments.”

A nationally acclaimed scholar-practitioner, Benitez received a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University. He also holds a Master of Education in counselor education and a Bachelor of Science in human development and family studies from Pennsylvania State University. He is widely published and frequently delivers keynote addresses, workshops and presentations on topics including diversity and inclusion, leadership and identity development, race and ethnic relations, racism and colorism, critical pedagogy and practice, and bias and discrimination.

“As a first-generation Latino college graduate from humble economic means, I know very well what it means to navigate and negotiate unfamiliar spaces full of diverse experiences and background,” Benitez said. “It was evident during my visits… that MSU Denver models the critical work of access and opportunity, and is poised to champion the type of diverse education necessary for today’s times and tomorrow’s possibilities.

“I look forward to joining such a fantastic and forward-thinking leadership team during this important time in the strategic-planning stages, partnering with the campus and broader community to build on and continue advancing this imperative work at MSU Denver.”


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