UAFS Hires First Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

John Blue will lead the newly formed office starting in January.

UAFS Diversity Director John Blue
Courtesy: University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has selected John William Blue as its first executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Blue has a 15-year history in higher education and is currently the director of Student Life and Multicultural Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin. 

Chancellor Terisa Riley created the University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee in the fall of 2019 and one of its goals was hiring a director for the newly formed office.

“Over the past year, our university – much like our country as a whole – experienced turmoil that shined a light on the need for this work and the importance of the initiatives that will make UAFS a welcoming campus where all students, employees and guests feel valued and respected,” Riley says. “I sincerely appreciate the hiring committee’s dedication to this search and their inclusion of members of our university and local community during the interview process. I am excited about the addition of Mr. John Blue to our senior leadership team and look forward to working with him as he leads us through the next steps in our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.”

Blue will serve as a member of senior administration, providing counsel on diversity and inclusion initiatives and he will report directly to Chancellor Riley. He will also lead the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and subcommittees.

“This institution is ripe for DEI work to commence,” Blue says. “People are ready to advance the mission of this university. They are hungry for something new, and especially during the time we’re in socially in this country, this is the right time to move Fort Smith forward.”

Listening will be a key component of Blue’s aim to create strong, lasting relationships to DEI work across the university and the River Valley. 

“I will be taking my time when I start and speaking with the deans, department chairs and faculty as well as members of the community to see what’s already in place and how we can enhance what’s already being done, but I know Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he says.

 “Diversity brings about innovation,” Blue says, noting that bringing diverse people with diverse thoughts and experiences to the table betters the work of all, whether that means maximizing profits in businesses or advancing exploration in diverse academic fields of study.

Blue holds a Master of Science in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Jackson State University, and expects to complete his Doctor of Education in Higher Education from the University of Mississippi in 2022. 

He will assume his new position Jan. 19, 2021.