Photo of Momodu C. Taylor, provided by setonhill.edu.
By: Ashley Grasinger
(GREENSBURG, Pa.) – In November 2021 Seton Hill introduced their first chief diversity officer, Momodu C. Taylor, Ph.D. Seton Hill had appointed Dr. Taylor as dean of students and diversity officer in July.
“Right now ‘Project H.O.M.E’ is one of the main things we are working on. This is going to be a group of student leaders pulled from various student organizations, as well as those whose gifts, talents, and passions have yet to be unearthed,” said Dr. Taylor. “We are going to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion by spreading those ideas on campus in educationally programmatic and fun ways.”
Chief diversity officer is a strategic leader who focuses on implementing initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across an organization, and advancing student, faculty, staff, and community engagement at an institution of higher learning. Seton Hill University has committed to success in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the chief diversity officer is charged with seeing that vision through to fruition.
“Currently we are working on a number of initiatives to significantly increase student participation as well as engagement with faculty and staff,” said Dr. Taylor. “We are working on some activities that I think would be more inclusive of various ideas and cultural traditions of what an inclusive community would look like on campus. We are hoping to branch that into academics as well as parts of the student experience inside and outside of the classroom.”
Dr. Taylor earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Livingstone College, a Master of Arts in teaching history education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and holds a Doctor of philosophy in leadership studies; from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University as well.
“One of the hardest things to tackle in any Diversity Officer position is the changing of hearts and minds,” said Dr. Taylor. “That’s not saying that those hearts and minds are of ill will, but it’s saying that people get comfortable with what they are already used to, and it is difficult to get people to look at new things and see them as viable options.”
Prior to being named chief diversity officer, Seton Hill selected Dr. Taylor after a national search to become dean of students and diversity officer. On November 1, Seton Hill President, Mary Finger, Ed.D. named him chief diversity officer advancing Seton Hill’s commitment to excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion can be a confusing set of terms to some,” said Dr. Taylor. “The confusion that needs to be alleviated is that it’s not a separate piece of the university experience. It does not succeed in isolation. It’s as if we had a pie, multiple ingredients go into making the pie, you don’t just create a slice of it apart from the whole. I hope to bring all the ingredients together to make up this pie.”
Dr. Taylor’s work includes serving on hiring committees and training search advocates to assist Seton Hill in recruiting high-quality faculty, and staff. He will also be using his instructional background and research to serve as a history instructor, teaching SHY 330 Sports in America this Spring 2022. Dr. Taylor who wrote his dissertation on the transformational leadership of the late boxer, Muhammad Ali, plans on working towards adding to the goals of a more inclusive curriculum, including but not limited to offering courses with African American and Black studies themes.
“America is very diverse and studying things outside of our normal realm of being in western Pennsylvania or even being in the United States, expands our view and expands our reach as far as what we are providing for students,” said Dr. Taylor. “Not just from a classroom standpoint but from an experiential and service-learning standpoint.”
Before coming to Seton Hill Dr. Taylor had been the Lineberger Multicultural Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, and later their director of student involvement. During the early pandemic, he served as an adjunct professor of interdisciplinary studies and liberal arts at Wheeling University, and with Bowie State University as the co-curricular assistant to the vice president of student affairs, creating infographic reports assessing student engagement data.
“Something I’ve noticed across higher education from the literature as well as experience, is that there is a lot of programming, especially for diversity, equity, and inclusion, but somehow missing the mark on building the community we seek is commonplace,” said Dr. Taylor. “a lot of things get scheduled and are happening with good intentions but are not as targeted as they could be for high engagement, by connecting multiple efforts. I want to really focus on bringing high engagement and impactful dialogue to Seton Hill in a way that is inclusive of multiple perspectives.”