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JaMar Lovelace remembers how excited his brother LaShan was to tell him about a job opening at Syracuse University. The position in the newly formed Office of Diversity and Inclusion would be the first of its kind at the university.
“He was very excited about being somewhere new and working with a new team to push this diversity and inclusion,” JaMar said.
LaShan Lovelace became SU’s first director of diversity and inclusion in June. In his role, he will work with SU administrators and staff to create and expand diversity and inclusion initiatives and programming at the university.
The goal, LaShan said, is to create change.
LaShan’s commitment to exploring and promoting diversity dates back to his childhood, when his family frequently moved. LaShan, whose dad served in the Army, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and has since lived in Italy as well as several states including Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Being around people from different backgrounds and seeing how their identities affect their life experiences, LaShan became interested in systematic approaches to diversity and inclusion, he said.
“It taught me to really look at various differences and where we come from and upbringings and how that intersects in multiple ways,” LaShan said. “Once I realized that race plays a major role in experience and access, that really piqued my interest in creating systematic best practices.”
LaShan earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management from Liberty University in 2007 and a master’s in management and leadership from the school in 2011. He worked as a personal banker at Wells Fargo until 2012 when he returned to Liberty as a conduct officer, adjudicating cases for violations of the university’s code of conduct.
He served in various roles at Radford University starting in 2015 before becoming director for the school’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, where he created programming for first-generation college students, low-income students and LGBTQ students.
I know in times of pressure, he’s gonna get people together. He’s going to make you uncomfortable by talking about the issue at hand, but he’s gonna make sure it’s done in a respectful way.
JaMar Lovelace, LaShan’s brother
JaMar, who is a teacher and football coach at a high school in Roanoke, Virginia, said he and LaShan have always wanted to help people overcome obstacles that their backgrounds might pose.
“Seeing how people grow up and how that can affect their overall success, I think that kind of led to our passions to want to give young adults as many tools and as many resources to take them out of their circumstance,” JaMar said.
LaShan said he was especially drawn to SU after learning about its ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives and reading about recent protests at the university.
#NotAgainSU, a movement led by Black students held a sit-in at the Barnes Center at The Arch for eight days in November and occupied Crouse-Hinds Hall for 31 days in February and March to protest the university’s response to a series of hate incidents on and around campus.
During the occupation of Crouse-Hinds, SU suspended protesters who remained in the building after it closed and sealed off the building for two days, preventing those outside from entering with food and medical supplies.
Both occupations resulted in university officials signing commitments to the students.
“I did detailed research into the institution and the protests that have occurred and the responses to those protests, and I thought that I could really come in and use my skill sets to develop relationships,” LaShan said.
LaShan hopes he can be a resource for students and administrators during future protests, he said. He wants students to feel comfortable sharing their concerns with him, he said.
I’m excited to be part of the SU community but also the community here in general. It really feels like I belong here.
LaShan Lovelace, first director of diversity and inclusion
JaMar said his brother has always been good at handling conflict and finding ways to compromise.
“I know in times of pressure, he’s gonna get people together,” JaMar said. “He’s going to make you uncomfortable by talking about the issue at hand, but he’s gonna make sure it’s done in a respectful way.”
LaShan hopes to strengthen and expand some of the discussion-based diversity initiatives SU has already instituted, such as its six-week Conversations About Race and Ethnicity program. The university’s diversity and inclusion officials are also reviewing required diversity training for faculty and staff, as well as hiring practices, he said.
“Those things are occurring, and we’re really striving to create a baseline infrastructure for the folks who come and follow us,” LaShan said. “A lot of it is building a cultural consciousness.”
Since LaShan started working at SU this summer, he has met with students, campus organizations and other employees virtually and over the phone to discuss their experiences navigating issues around diversity and inclusion at SU. All of the conversations have been productive, he said.
“I have an open-door policy,” LaShan said. “I’m willing to have a conversation with everybody here and understand why people feel this way so we can find solutions.”
Ebony King, diversity and inclusion specialist at SU, said working with LaShan has been a pleasure. The two collaborate together on presentations about equity and accessibility for the campus community, she said.
“He has an elevated commitment to continuing connection, engagement, and impact for the further advancement of positive change on campus,” King said in a statement to The Daily Orange.
Keith Alford, chief diversity and inclusion officer, said LaShan is dedicated to social justice on campus and is willing to commit his time to increasing equity and accessibility at SU.
LaShan’s transition to life in Syracuse so far has been easy, though he wouldn’t recommend relocating during a pandemic, he said. He’s spent his time exploring local stores and restaurants and has been learning about the work activist organizations and other groups are doing in the community, he said.
“I’m excited to be part of the SU community but also the community here in general,” LaShan said. “It really feels like I belong here.”
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