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University Message

OUDI Interim VP: 'Join Me in Helping Us Move Towards Healing and Hope'

This message originally appeared as an email to the campus community that was sent out on Friday, July 10.

Denise Isom, interim vice president for the office of university diversity and inclusion, smiles in a portrait
Denise Isom, Interim Vice President of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion. Photo by Joe Johnston

Hello, if I have not had the chance to meet you before, my name is Dr. Denise Isom. For the last several years it has been my honor to serve as the Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, and during that time I spent a couple of years serving in various roles in the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI), including Interim Director. It is now my pleasure to return to that office as the Interim Vice President.

This seems a perfect time for me to address the emotion and complexity of this moment, as well as introduce my hope for OUDI’s role in assisting us in moving forward toward healing and embracing our common desire to see Cal Poly live out its values around equity, our, as Dr. King described it, arc "towards justice."

What emerged around the transition in the VP position in OUDI was difficult, to say the least. For some of our campus community, it raised a myriad of issues and emotions, including real pain, anger, hurt, and fear. So many of the messages and emails we received were clear cries, to be heard, seen, and to feel safe. This moment was also interwoven with the depths of emotion around sexual assault, all within a national context marked by racial violence and assaults on Title IX, gender equity, and the rights of so many; not to mention a global pandemic! So many of us are hurting.

We hear you. I will keep listening and I will work intentionally to heal and strengthen our sense of community and belonging at Cal Poly. Though the pain born of this time was palpable for so many, what was equally evident, was our collective desire for substantive change around diversity and equity. I hope to capture that energy, and to assist in leading OUDI forward in enacting and sharing that vision. To that end, I will be establishing an OUDI Advisory Council, made up of diversity and equity leaders from around our campus community – myriad of voices, shared vision, active collaborative networks.

Join me, in helping us move towards healing and hope, in continuing to push our arc ever towards justice.


Dr. Denise Isom

Interim Vice President

Office of University Diversity & Inclusion