Harper College

History of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

SJLC - Group Photo

Cultural Center Opening - Group Photo

In 2012, the Board of Trustees and Harper College's fifth president, Dr. Kenneth Ender, began prioritizing the assessment and evaluation of Harper's performance through key indicators called Institutional Effectiveness Measures (IEMs). These measures aligned with the mission and vision of Harper and included the needs and expectations of the College's internal and external stakeholders. The IEMs assessed the quality of the institution in eight categories, including employee diversity. Dr. Ender and the Board members desired to convey to the employees and external stakeholders that they valued diversity. Harpers' leaders were aware of the changing demographics of the community and wanted the demographics of the employees to mirror the diversity of the evolving community. During this time, Harper's stakeholders from diverse backgrounds were engaged in candid and revelatory conversations. Dr. Ender also tasked twelve faculty and staff members with strategizing the prioritization of diversity and inclusion campus-wide.

 Dr. Avis Proctor picked up the torch in 2019 when she became Harper's sixth president. One of her first priorities was establishing an executive cabinet level diversity, equity and inclusion role. She has advanced the mission and vision of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive institution by implementing campus-wide goals and priorities for addressing and minimizing systemic barriers for historically underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized communities. As a result, Harper College continues progressing towards a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable campus. Please review the timeline for a deeper look into Harper's transformational diversity, equity, and inclusion journey.

Harper’s DEI Timeline: 


The “Diverse Relationships Engaged in Affirming Multiculturalism” (DREAM) employee resource group (ERG) was created.


A Special Assistant position to President Ender for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was created. Dr. Michelé Smith served in this role from 2014 to 2017. Dr. Pearl Ratunil also served in this role from 2017 to 2020.


Two additional employee resource groups were established: “Learning About Abilities, Not Disabilities” (LAND) and “Staff, Administrators, and Faculty for Equality” (SAFE).


Dr. Avis Proctor became the sixth president of Harper College.


Harper joined the Partnership for College Completion to develop a comprehensive, campus-wide equity plan to decrease racial and socioeconomic completion gaps by 2025.


Dr. Claudia Mercado served as the interim Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The creation of a new Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) was conceptualized.


Dr. Tamara A. Johnson became the inaugural Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The Cultural Center officially opened in November.


The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was fully established. Five staff members joined the department. Student aides were also hired to support college-wide DEI initiatives, cultural center operations, events, and programs.


Dr. Tamara A. Johnson launched the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Fellows program, and two faculty members were selected as the inaugural Fellows.

Harper’s DEI Awards and Recognitions: 
Insight into Diversity - Higher Education - Excellence in Diversity Award 2017       Insight into Diversity - Higher Education - Excellence in Diversity Award 2017


  • Recipient of the 2017 and 2018 INSIGHT into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.
  • 2017 Equity and Diversity Award – Illinois Community College Trustees Association.
  • 2017 Central Region Equity Award – American Community College Trustees Association.   

(excerpt from A Way Forward: Report of the President's Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

Last Updated: 11/6/23