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Miller leaves position as vice provost for inclusive excellence for SUNY position

Despina Stratigakos will act as interim vice provost during search for Miller's replacement

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Teresa Miller, the former vice provost for inclusive excellence and a member of the law school faculty since 1995, was named as senior vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and chief of staff to SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, effective Jan. 29.

Provost Charles Zukoski described “mixed feelings” about her departure to SUNY in his announcement in an email to the UB community Sunday. He recounted the many ways Miller impacted the UB community throughout her tenure. Despina Stratigakos, a professor in the school of architecture and planning, will take over as interim vice provost effective Feb. 5, Zukoski announced in an email Wednesday.

Miller was first named UB’s inaugural vice provost for Equity and Inclusion in 2014. She eventually built the Office of Inclusive Excellence out of that role, in part to distinguish it from the neighboring Office of Diversity and Inclusion, overseen by Title IX Director Sharon Nolan-Weiss.

The two offices worked closely together despite their distinct roles, Nolan-Weiss said. She recalls being most impressed by Miller’s ability to deal with difficult situations and promote inclusiveness without any precedent for what her role would mean.

Nolan-Weiss recalled one incident where she was particularly impressed with Miller’s abilities –– the day a student hung ‘black only, white only’ signs outside Clemens Hall restrooms as part of an art project, although no one knew the context at the time they were hung. The incident provoked strong reactions from across campus and received national attention from outlets including The New York Times, as it raised questions of both race relations and free speech in art and on college campuses.

“That took everybody by surprise,” Nolan-Weiss said. “I think that the way she approached that was not only to address the immediate issue but to ask the question of what does this reaction tell us about whether people feel included on this campus and even beyond this, how do we create an atmosphere where we can have dialogue around difficult issue.”

Miller’s response was, in part, to create a series of campus-wide talks, known as the ‘DifCon’ series for Difficult Conversations, which has included discussions on topics ranging from cultural appropriation, protest in sports, hate speech on campus and how colleges handle sexual assault to balance student rights.

“Her focus was really to ask, how do we talk across difference even if we disagree with each other, and really leverage the value of diversity,” Nolan-Weiss said. “I think that was really impressive. And, she was just such a good colleague ­­–– her sense of humor, her perspective. I miss her already.”

During her time as vice provost, Miller led the creation of UB’s first strategic diversity and inclusion plan, which will continue under her predecessor. This plan integrates inclusive excellence across the campus by coordinating diversity and inclusion efforts among various departments and by better monitoring progress to goals, Zukoski said.

Her other initiatives included the creation of an Inclusive Excellence Leadership Council, which called on various leaders across UB to meet and discuss, strategies, challenges and recognize achievements in working toward inclusivity.

Miller also collaborated with the department of International Education to create Thanksgiving Without Borders, one of UB’s most notable attempts to bridge the gap between international students and their host country. She also worked to integrate the new diversity learning requirement in the undergraduate curriculum.

Miller did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Stratigakos will begin her term as interim vice provost Feb. 5. Zukoski said he plans to have a permanent replacement for her position by July 1.

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com


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