(Ashland, Ore.) — Toya Cooper, an attorney who has spent almost 20 years addressing diversity in higher education, has accepted an offer to become Southern Oregon University’s first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion. She will start work with the university Nov. 15
“I think SOU is ready to engage the questions of equity, diversity and inclusion that this moment in our nation’s history brings to bear, and to model for students what it means to respond effectively to them,” Cooper said.
“I’m excited to learn more about the good EDI-related work already underway at SOU, the OSF, city council and chamber of commerce, and eager to discover what partnerships are to be had among us for the greatest positive impact.”
SOU has a long history of providing a welcoming atmosphere for all students and employees, and has had an equity, diversity and inclusion professional on its leadership team for many years. A decision was made to elevate the position to the vice president level after the most recent person in that role resigned a year and a half ago. A three-person group of SOU administrators has served as the university’s EDI Leadership Team during the interim.
“Our candidates for this new position at SOU were exceptional, and Toya rose to the top,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “She brings a wealth of experience to the job, along with a remarkable ability to collaborate and build teams. I am confident that all members of our campus community will be well-served by her efforts.”
Cooper most recently served for a year as director of equity, inclusion and compliance at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She previously worked for 18 years at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California – as special assistant to the president for legal affairs and associate director of multicultural programs during her first year, and then as college counsel and special assistant to the provost for diversity initiatives. She has authored and presented a variety of diversity trainings and talks.
She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Westmont College and her law degree from the Willamette University College of Law in Salem. She worked as a law clerk for the Marion County District Attorney’s office while in law school, and said she welcomes the opportunity for a return to Oregon.
“I called Salem home for three years,” Cooper said. “I was drawn by and fell in love with its natural beauty, which Ashland certainly does not lack.
“In addition to SOU’s mission, values and vision, that beauty certainly serves as a draw for me.”
SOU’s vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion will oversee fairness and equal opportunity efforts at all levels of campus, and will serve as the university’s point person on those matters throughout the region and the state. It is a key leadership position that works closely with the university president and serves on the president’s cabinet.
The interim Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team is made up of Kylan de Vries, an associate professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Jonathan Chavez-Baez, Assistant Director for Latino/a/x Programs & Outreach; and Patricia Syquia McCarthy, a contracts administrative officer and risk manager in the SOU Service Center.