New diversity officer at AACC aims to keep college headed in right direction

Stacy M. Brown | 11/24/2017, 6 a.m.
Dr. Deidra Dennie has one title but the description of her job quickly reveals that she wears many hats.
Dr. Deidra Dennie Chief Diversity Officer Anne Arundel Commuity College Courtesy Photo/AACC

Dr. Deidra Dennie has one title but the description of her job quickly reveals that she wears many hats.

In an effort by the college administration to further the school’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusive excellence, Dr. Dennie was recently named as the college’s new chief diversity officer.

“My job entails a lot of things,” she said with a laugh. “But, basically, I provide leadership and strategic direction in creating a climate here at Anne Arundel Community College that’s welcoming, inclusive, respectful and free from discrimination and intolerance.”

Dennie takes on a significant leadership role in meeting the needs of the college’s increasingly diverse student body while also helping to build what school officials say is a more welcoming and inclusive climate on campus.

“I’ve been here seven weeks and a lot is going on,” Dr. Dennie said. “If you ask me to identify the biggest task, I’d say I can’t do that just yet, but planning, directing, implementing, coordinating and implementing are big things.”

Dr. Dennie noted that diversity is about people and what Anne Arundel Community College is doing with individuals shows that the school values all cultures.

“Equity is the Golden Rule, which is to treat people as you want to be treated and taking a step back to evaluate how we’re doing things and whether it’s the right thing to do,” said Dennie, who arrived at Anne Arundel Community College from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga., where she was the director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

While at Armstrong State, Dennie developed and oversaw programs, services and initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining more faculty, staff and students from diverse and under-represented populations.

Among her initial priorities at Anne Arundel Community College is to meet with as many students, college employees and administrators as she can to understand how to continue leadership and vision in diversity, inclusion and equity in Maryland.

The diverse nature of the student population at Anne Arundel Community College continues to rise. Nearly 37 percent of credit students this fall have identified themselves as part of a racial or ethnic minority, according to a news release.

“This is a college that is already rich in diversity and I want to build on that foundation,” Dr. Dennie said. “I’m eager to make some meaningful connections with the students, staff and everyone at AACC. I want us to work together to build more bridges to make this an even more welcoming college community for everyone who comes here.”

Anne Arundel Community College was among the first community colleges in the nation— and the first in Maryland— to have a chief diversity officer, when James Felton was hired in 2014. Since then, the college’s commitment to diversity has earned several national awards including the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine in 2015 and 2016, as well as the 2015 Charles Kennedy Equity Award from the Association of Community College Trustees.

“For me, it’s all about authentic leadership and transparency and I don’t want there to be any confusion,” Dr. Dennie said. “We have to decide whether we are headed in the right direction and what we need to do is to make sure that we are headed in right direction.”