The University of Utah rising as new leader in Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

by Savoy Staff

In the Mountain West, the U of U is emerging as an EDI leader in higher education

Situated in one of the most rapidly growing urban markets in the western US, the University of Utah (U of U)—the state’s flagship institution—is undergoing significant changes to prepare for the future of higher education. An Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution (EHSI), the U of U is home of the IMPACT Partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the New Leadership Academy, as well as a growing number of resources, scholarships, and opportunities to support increasingly diverse faculty, staff, and student bodies. Led by its division for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI), the U of U is spearheading the state’s efforts to prepare the next generation of diverse leaders, scholars, and researchers.

Diversity continues to grow at the University of Utah, with students from Latinx, Asian, Black, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities making up over one-third of the student population on campus. Additionally, as the White non-Hispanic share of the student body continues to shrink, diversity among students keeps growing, mirroring trends in the state. Several new University initiatives and institutional divisions are preparing to meet the needs of this rapidly changing community.

Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI), led by Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal, leads many of the University’s efforts to create a more diverse and equitable campus. EDI encompasses many entities that serve our diverse campus community, including the EDI Strategic Council, University of Utah Health EDI, the Latinx Advisory Council, and the Black Advisory Council, just to name a few. Additionally, its Friday Forum series on Racism in Higher Education presents monthly discussions that address both persistent problems and current topics relating to equity and social justice. A recent Friday Forum panel featured the Presidents of several HBCUs in conversation on ways to protect Black spaces and Cultural Centers on college campuses—a first event of its kind at a Predominately White Institution (PWI). Nikki Walker, Director of Community Engagement and DEI at DOMO says, “The University of Utah is emerging as the premier institution in the Mountain West for championing equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher ed.”

EDI is also the home of many of the University’s vital cultural and resource centers, including the University of Utah Black Cultural Center, recipient of the 2022 Association of Black Culture Centers Innovative Website of the Year award. Other important student centers include the American Indian Resource Center; Center for Equity and Student Belonging; Dream Center; LGBT Resource Center; and the Office for Inclusive Excellence.

l to r: The University of Utah’s Meligha Garfield, Director of the Black Cultural Center, and Rodney Cohen, HBCU Partnership Manager

The University of Utah is a leader in developing innovative resources to support diverse communities—including…

  • The Health Science Learning, Engagement, Achievement, and Progress (LEAP) program, a four-year pipeline program designed to increase racial and ethnic diversity in health professions, particularly students from underrepresented communities.
  • The IMPACT partnership, launched in 2020, which bridges the University of Utah with Howard University and other HBCUs to build pathways and leadership opportunities for exceptional graduate and undergrad students.
  • A recent $1 million grant from the Meldrum Foundation that is helping support full-tuition scholarships for undergraduate students from any of Utah’s eight federally recognized Native American tribes.
  • The new Intersectional Studies Collective, supported by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a program that builds on the work of Kimberlé W. Crenshaw.
  • And because the University understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of diverse leaders—the New Leadership Academy (NLA), a nationally recognized leadership development program has helped develop numerous college and university administrators, providing groundbreaking, equity-focused curriculum, coaching, and mentorship.

These and several other recent programs further demonstrate the University of Utah’s commitment to leading in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion. As John Burkhardt, retired director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity maintains, “[in equity, diversity, and inclusion leadership,] Utah has positioned itself as one that others are watching!” To learn more about the University of Utah’s exciting new initiatives in EDI, visit or


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