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‘Be Here Now’

New VP for Diversity and Inclusion Brings Background and Balance to Role

By Liam Farrell

Georgina Dodge

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Georgina Dodge brings a blend of quiet determination and playful openness in conversation to her new role as UMD's first vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Georgina Dodge may have taken an unconventional path to diversity work, but it’s not surprising where she eventually ended up.

A first-generation college student born in South Korea and raised in a military family in countries like Japan, Turkey and the Philippines, Dodge, who arrived in June as the university’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion, said she “grew up often being an outsider.”

“My overall life arc has led me this way,” Dodge said. “I like change.”

Dodge brings a blend of quiet determination and playful openness in conversation to her new role, which includes serving in the president’s cabinet and leading the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It supports the efforts of campus units to achieve their diversity and inclusion goals and coordinates activities, programs and initiatives on campus and beyond. Last week, the university announced that its Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct would also report to her.

Dodge’s guiding mantra is “Be here now,” and says her first priority at UMD has been to ensure every student she meets knows she is thinking about them.

“Our attention is the most valuable thing we have to give,” she said. “Listening is a revolutionary act.”

Dodge has been showing a talent for “really being present in the moment,” said Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, director of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union–Center for Campus Life. Shortly after Dodge arrived, she and Guenzler-Stevens toured the Stamp and spent hours talking to students and UMD community groups. That “quizzical nature,” Guenzler-Stevens said, will be a building block for future work.

“She’s really trying to understand the community,” she said. “She’s insightful.”

Prior to coming to College Park, Dodge served for two years as chief diversity officer and associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion at Bucknell University, and she previously worked at Big Ten counterparts Ohio State and Iowa universities. She had sought to return to a similar institution, and UMD’s proximity to Washington, D.C., was a bonus.

“The issues that we work with are the most important national issues,” she said.

She enlisted in the Navy and was an electronics technician for six years before she began studying at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 1986. While there, Dodge became “enraptured” by literature theory and went on to earn a B.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her career in higher education began in 1996 as an assistant professor of English at the Ohio State University, where she taught African American, Asian, multiracial and women’s literatures. But she was always attracted to connecting the classroom to the outside world, directing educational outreach to the local African American community and then becoming OSU’s assistant vice provost of minority affairs in 2005.

While working at Iowa as chief diversity officer and associate vice president from 2010–17, Dodge developed a diversity resources team framework that she wants to institute at UMD. Rather than reacting after incidents occur, the team goes out into campus to conduct training, conferences and consultations to proactively build up cultural intelligence over time.

“It’s left quite a legacy,” said Bria Marcelo, Iowa’s director of diversity resources. “She’s really intelligent, she’s very strategic and she’s ambitious and direct.”

Robert Midkiff, vice provost at Bucknell, said Dodge takes a “deliberate, systematic approach” that gave colleagues an opportunity to take care of themselves and each other while dealing with the difficult issues at hand.

“That’s something that is absolutely crucial,” he said. “She seeks balance.”

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