UW-Eau Claire appoints two new interim EDI leaders

O’Hallaron, Ducksworth-Lawton to lead restructured EDI division

Toby Mohr

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Photo by Toby Mohr

O’Hallaron (left) and Ducksworth-Lawton (right) were appointed to interim positions in EDI

The recently restructured UW-Eau Claire Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) division has appointed two new interim leaders. 

Teresa O’Hallaron was appointed interim assistant chancellor of EDI and Selika Ducksworth-Lawton was named interim executive director for EDI engagement. 

Both were already working as faculty at UW-Eau Claire with O’Hallaron as the affirmative action and Title IX administrator and Ducksworth-Lawton working as a professor of history.

The two appointments come after Chancellor James Schmidt announced a new structure for the EDI division after Olga Diaz left her position as vice chancellor of EDI and Student Affairs earlier this semester. 

Diaz later claimed she was fired for refusing to resign in an op-ed published in The Leader-Telegram.

The new division will separate EDI from the student affairs division and will be led by O’Hallaron in an interim position through summer 2024, according to an email Schmidt sent to the student body.

“I’m hoping it won’t be confusing for students,” O’Hallaron said. “The services and resources will remain the same.” 

According to O’Hallaron, student services such as Multicultural Student Services, Services for Students with Disabilities, Gender Sexuality Resource Center, and other services provided by student affairs will continue without any interruption or significant changes.

O’Hallaron, who served as interim vice chancellor in 2021 before Diaz was hired, said she hopes the new structure can expand diversity beyond student affairs.

“My work with affirmative action and Title IX will be quite appropriate for a diversity lead because it is the workforce side of diversity,” O’Hallaron said. “I have always wanted the workforce piece of diversity more recognized within EDI.”

Ducksworth-Lawton said the new structure is a more effective way to approach diversity on campus and in the community.

“It’s going to be easier because now the roles are far more defined,” Ducksworth-Lawton said. “One of the issues with having EDI in student affairs is the fact that on one hand, it supports students in class, but we also have to support students outside the classroom.”

Ducksworth-Lawton, recipient of the UW-Eau Claire Martin Luther King Social Justice Leadership Award and the UW System’s Board of Regents Diversity Award in 2021, said her goal for the new EDI division is to create connections between the university and the community.

“I want to really focus on inclusion,” she said. “There are people here who have not felt included in the EDI initiatives, they don’t see how EDI affects them. We want to help people see that inclusion and inclusive pedagogy are going to help everyone.”

Ducksworth-Lawton also said it’s time to focus on building a culture of respect.

“I think we need to worry less about words and more about actions at this point,” she said. “For us to demand respect, we must show respect and especially respect to people. It’s not about status, it’s about the fact that they’re humans.”

Despite Diaz criticizing UW-Eau Claire for providing safe spaces for minority groups in her op-ed, both O’Hallaron and Ducksworth-Lawton said the EDI division will continue to support cultural centers and student services.

“The nomenclature is poor when we talk about safe spaces. What these people are referring to are the student centers through the MSS office,” O’Hallaron said. “There’s an implication that we are excluding students from these spaces and that is not the case. That is false.”

For Ducksworth-Lawton, she is also motivated to create a better future for her children in the community.

“My son is a student on campus and his presence here means anything I do is gonna affect him too,” she said. “So you know that’ll keep my feet to the fire. I want my kids to look at Eau Claire and be able to say ‘that’s a place I want to be.’”

Mohr can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: A previous edition of this story contained a misspelling in the cutline and was corrected on Dec. 16.