President Mark Schlissel is recommending the appointment of Robert M. Sellers as the University of Michigan’s first-ever chief diversity officer. The new position is being created primarily to lead the implementation of the universitywide diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan that was unveiled Wednesday.
The president made the announcement during his Leadership Breakfast on Wednesday. The position and the appointment will come before the Board of Regents later this month.
In his role as chief diversity officer, Sellers would be a principal adviser to Schlissel and serve as a member of the university’s executive leadership team. He also will serve as the vice provost for equity and inclusion and as the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Education.
“Dr. Sellers’ leadership and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion make him the ideal person to lead the implementation and evaluation of our DE&I strategic plan,” Schlissel says.
Provost Martha Pollack also thanked Sellers for his dedication in helping lead the university forward on this mission.
“In his role as vice provost, Dr. Sellers has worked tirelessly to help develop our strategic plan, and has worked with all of our schools, colleges and other academic units on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. His expanded role as chief diversity officer will ensure that all of campus benefits from his extraordinary leadership and vision,” Pollack says.
Sellers’ professional career at U-M began in 1997 as an associate professor of psychology. Five years later he was promoted to professor, and in 2003 he became chair of the personality and social context area in the Department of Psychology. In 2007, he became the associate chair of the department, and in 2011 was named chair of the department and the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology.
“My career has been deeply rooted in work around diversity, equity and inclusion, so I’m honored and excited to help support the existing efforts the university has in place and to help lead so many of the new DE&I initiatives as we move from planning to implementation,” Sellers says.
Among several of his efforts in the past two years as the vice provost for equity, inclusion and academic affairs, Sellers was instrumental in helping launch the Wolverine Pathways program in fall 2015, and was chair of the provost’s committee on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Before joining the U-M faculty, Sellers was a student here. He graduated cum laude from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1985, then went on to earn a Ph.D. in personality psychology from U-M in 1990.
Following his graduate work, Sellers served as an assistant professor and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia until his return to Ann Arbor.
A native of Cincinnati, Sellers’ primary research activities have focused on the role of race in the psychological lives of African Americans. Among his career achievements is serving as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues.
He has won numerous honors and awards for his work and service, including the Theodore Millon Mid-Career Award in Personality Psychology from the American Psychological Foundation, the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program Research Achievement Award, and the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Professional Development of Ethnic Minority Graduate Students.