Thursday, July 11, 2013
A U for Everyone
Growing up in a town called New Roads has inspired Katrice Albert to take unexpected journeys throughout her life.
But the inspiration goes beyond the name of the rural Louisiana county seat where the U's new vice president for equity and diversity was raised. Rather, it springs from a strong family foundation—one dedicated to hard work, academic achievement, and public service.
Albert's chemist professor mother and engineer father fostered that philosophy. And it was enhanced by an undergraduate experience focused on social justice at Xavier University, the only Catholic school among the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
After earning a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Auburn University, Albert took a clinical internship with Boston Medical School's Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology. The opportunity gave the southerner a crash course in "how to manage snow" and expertise in working with underserved communities. Albert went on to Louisiana State University, which, she says, "helped solidify my love of the land-grant institution."
In 2005, she began service as LSU's chief diversity officer. Her tenure is marked by the school's highest recruitment rates for African Americans and Latinos, two new buildings housing an African-American center and a women's center, and the groundwork for creating domestic partner benefits for LSU employees and students.
Drawn to the U
The opportunity to serve at a world-class land-grant university where equity and diversity are top-of-the-list attracted Albert to the University of Minnesota.
"Combining a grass-top and a grass-roots approach to equity and diversity was really appealing to me," she says. "I'm grateful that President Kaler and U of M faculty have made these issues a priority."
Building on a solid foundation was also a draw. "The Office of Equity and Diversity has a strong strategic plan in place and excellent leaders," says Albert, who notes Minnesota's long legacy of inspiring leaders. "Josie Johnson, Rusty Barcelo, and Robert Jones have all left major imprints here. I am standing on the shoulders of giants who have been thoughtful about access and opportunity for everyone."
Beyond campus, Albert is excited to tap into the Twin Cities lakes culture, ethnic restaurants, and women's basketball. She's been to seven of the last NCAA Women's Final Four tournaments and is thrilled with the prospect of being reunited with the Minnesota Lynx's Seimone Augustus, who was a student athlete at LSU.
She's also looking forward to experiencing the area's vibrant arts scene and continuing her years of service on several boards.
"I enjoy offering my time, talents, and treasure to the arts because I know how transformative they can be, especially in regard to understanding difference," she says.
Albert says she plans to be "very intentional about learning the complexities of the U," while meeting with faculty, staff, and students on all system campuses in the coming weeks. She is also looking forward to meeting with community members and advancing initiatives such as Generation Next, which aims to lessen the academic achievement gap between students of color and their peers in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Addressing the gap along the K-12 pipeline and among undergraduate and postgraduate programs is a top priority for Albert. She sees the University's recent tuition freeze as a key development in helping to increase recruitment and retention for under-represented and under-resourced students.
Albert plans to take time to share the successes around equity and diversity. "It's important for the University to tell its story about how cultural transformation happens here every day," she says. "Preeminence comes when you tell the story of the good work."
Albert is thrilled to once again be embarking on a new road.
"This is an adventure," she says. "I'm enjoying every minute of it."