University of Oklahoma President David Boren has named former state Senator and Representative Jabar Shumate as OU's Vice President for the University, a newly created role that will focus on diversity and outreach.
"I knew that this person had to be someone in whom I had complete trust. Complete trust in their actions, complete trust in their motives, complete trust in their good judgment," Boren said during a Tuesday press conference.
Shumate served four terms in the Oklahoma House before winning a Senate seat in 2012, representing the Tulsa area. He would've been term-limited in 2016, and announced earlier this year he was stepping down to pursue a private sector opportunity.
"In both positions he served with integrity and with ability," Boren said. "[He's a] a special friend of education. He chaired the Legislative Black Caucus. He knows about the needs of all members of our community."
Shumate earned bachelor's and master's degrees from OU, where he served as student body president and as a member of the historically black Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. After graduating he worked in Boren's office as his special assistant and press secretary. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. He called returning to his alma mater a "full-circle experience."
"I can think of no better way to give back after my legislative service than to work with the students, with the faculty and with the staff at making the University of Oklahoma a more inclusive place," Shumate said.
Shumate will oversee diversity initiatives, including admissions and faculty recruitment, at all three OU campuses. Boren says Shumate’s salary will come from private, non-appropriated funds because he is a former lawmaker.
"We will be fully compliant with state law in the matter of his compensation," Boren said.
Shumate said his first goal on campus will be to listen.
"You cannot do this job, or even start working in this area, without doing some intense understanding of where we are," Shumate said.
Shumate said it was important for him to have the support of one of his mentors, George Henderson, who was one of the first African-American faculty members on OU's campus and a professor emeritus of human relations.
“Jabar Shumate has been a University of Oklahoma student leader, an OU employee, a state legislative leader, and a civil rights leader,” Henderson said in a statement. “In each of those roles, he has been a successful, thoughtful and creative advocate for social justice."
Shumate said he'll work to increase the number of minority candidates considered for faculty and staff positions on OU's campus. KGOU's Kate Carlton Greer reported earlier this month black student enrollment has seen a downward trend over the past decade.
"No one will be able to wave a wand overnight, go in and be able to make those kind of drastic changes," Shumate said. "It starts first with visiting with college deans and key faculty. Faculty within colleges want to do the right thing. My job is going to be to present to them those tool kits and those ways to go beyond what we're doing to find highly qualified faculty that really look like what we want a college or university on this campus to look like, and that is diverse and inclusive."
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