JeffriAnne Wilder Named Inaugural Executive Director of Center for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Newly created center deepens Oberlin’s nearly two-century commitment to creating access and opportunity; Wilder has played a leading role in establishing diversity programs across the educational spectrum.

April 16, 2024

Office of Communications

JeffriAnne Wilder.
Photo credit: Kamron Khan

Oberlin College and Conservatory has named JeffriAnne Wilder, an accomplished educator and developer of higher education diversity programs, as the inaugural executive director of the Oberlin Center for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The Center was developed through the work commissioned by Oberlin’s Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity, a comprehensive examination of the campus and its programs conducted from 2020 to 2022. The initiative, which was launched amid heightened tensions nationwide in response to the murder of George Floyd, was aimed at identifying opportunities to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion across all facets of the institution.

Wilder’s appointment marks the conclusion of an extensive nationwide search. She will begin June 10; the Center is scheduled to open in fall 2024.

“Each one of us at Oberlin inherits this institution’s legacy of leadership in embracing diversity, creating access to education, and cultivating a climate that is intentionally inclusive of differing cultures, perspectives, and experiences,” says Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar, who initiated the campus study. “These are values upon which Oberlin was founded nearly 200 years ago, and they are the values that will guide our work into a third century and beyond.

“The arrival of our Center for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the appointment of JeffriAnne Wilder sets in motion an exciting new opportunity for Oberlin to lead by example.”

From 2008 to 2018, Wilder served the University of North Florida as a tenured associate professor of sociology and later as the founding director of the school’s Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, the first center of its kind in the State University System of Florida.

Wilder has also held roles as senior lecturer and designer of the Masters of Science in DEI Leadership at Glasgow Caledonian New York College and as senior research scientist and director of racial equity and strategy for the National Center for Women and Information Technology in Colorado. She was the inaugural executive director for DEI at Shaker Heights City Schools near her hometown of Cleveland.

From 2015 to 2019, Wilder served as a research and evaluation consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit dedicated to juvenile justice reform. She is a graduate of Allegheny College and earned a master’s degree in sociology from Cleveland State University and a PhD in sociology from the University of Florida.

As executive director and a member of Oberlin’s executive leadership team, Wilder will guide the Center and the ongoing implementation of recommendations presented in the Presidential Initiative report. She will provide leadership in all facets of the center’s operations, including fundraising, research, and ongoing assessment of Oberlin’s progress and effectiveness related to DEI efforts.

“JeffriAnne Wilder has supplied thoughtful leadership to initiatives such as these throughout her career, and I am thrilled to see what she can accomplish on a campus so thoroughly in support of all that the Center for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion represents,” says Ambar. “I look forward to welcoming her to campus and embracing this vital work together.”

In previous roles, Wilder notes, earning buy-in for DEI initiatives was often the first order of business. In Florida, recent state legislation scrutinizing DEI led the University of North Florida to disband the very center she had founded.

Her transition to Oberlin, she says, is “almost night and day.”

“Everyone in the Oberlin community and in our broader community understands why this work is so very important right now,” she says. “There is clear buy-in, because the work came from grass-roots efforts at Oberlin.”

When discussing the mission of the Center, Wilder invokes the phrase “standing on business,” a reference to Oberlin’s obligation to lead by example.

“Organizations like Oberlin get to stand on business: to say that this work is important in light of what’s happening and in spite of the resistance,” she says. “It’s not a fight; it’s doing the right thing. It’s doing the right work in the right way and being a model for how the work gets done in spite of the resistance. And that’s the side of history we’re going to be on.”

About Oberlin

Oberlin College and Conservatory, an independent coeducational institution in Northeast Ohio, holds a distinguished place among American colleges and universities. Founded in 1833, Oberlin was the first college to enact a policy to admit Black students and the first to grant undergraduate degrees to women in a coed setting.

That legacy is carried forward today in a multitude of ways: through an ongoing commitment to cultivating a campus that embraces diversity and inclusion in all forms; in an admissions policy that meets the full need of each student; and in the development of academic programs that reflect the African diaspora, indigenous people and all people of color, and women.

About the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity

In August 2020, in response to growing racial unrest across America, Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar identified the need for a proactive examination of all facets of Oberlin’s curriculum and campus life. The resulting Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity involved a 20-member committee and four subcommittees of faculty, staff, and students to examine:

  • issues related to violence, police-community relationships, and racial injustices, with an eye toward meaningful engagement with these and other vital issues related to equity and diversity.
  • Oberlin’s curriculum across the college and conservatory, campus programming, hiring practices, and overall campus culture, to identify opportunities to elevate the institution’s longstanding commitment to equity.

Learn more about the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity and read the committee’s report.

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