Texas Tech University

New Leaders Taking Charge of Diversity and Inclusion at Rawls

April Chavez

Rawls College

The Jerry S. Rawls College of Business has named Kirsten Cook and Andrea "Andi" Romi, both associate professors of accounting, as the new co-directors of diversity and inclusion.

The college's previous diversity and inclusion director, Francisco Delgadillo, stepped down from the position in the fall of 2017 to focus his attention on other critical areas within the college. In spring 2018, the college's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which is made up of Rawls College faculty, staff, students and administrators, recommended the position be refilled, and the search began.

With diversity and inclusion as part of its core values, Rawls College is committed to respecting and learning from differences in thought, experience and culture.

"A diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences helps organizations make better decisions, and having processes in place to promote inclusion enables people to feel empowered to share their viewpoints," Rawls College Dean Margaret L. Williams said.

Because fostering diversity and inclusion is a core value of Rawls College, it is a key element of its strategic plan.

"We strive for all members of the Rawls community to feel accepted and appreciated," Cook said. "To this end, we must create a warm and welcoming climate in Rawls to enhance the diversity of our student body."

Williams added that Rawls College is working to respond to the demand for a diverse workplace from employers.

"Nurturing a diverse student body and preparing them with the skills necessary to lead for inclusive excellence will ensure that top employers continue to recruit students from the Rawls College of Business," she said.

Kirsten CookPreviously members of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, Cook and Romi will work to further advance and invigorate the college's climate for diversity and inclusion.
Cook has been involved in the Rawls Diversity Symposium since its inception in 2015, presenting research and serving as a co-chair of the symposium in 2018. Through his role on the TTU Faculty Senate's Campus Climate Committee, Cook examines issues of bias and discrimination across the TTU campus and ultimately works to advance inclusiveness for all faculty. He is also a member of the TTU LGBTQIA Advisory Committee, working to improve the campus climate for LGBTQIA students, staff and faculty. Cook has also presented at the American Accounting Association (AAA) diversity section meeting and held leadership roles within the organization, which is a passionate group of academic accountants who have banded together to champion diversity and inclusion.

Andrea RomiRomi is involved in both research and service related to diversity issues. She currently serves as the chair of the faculty senate campus climate committee, where she was instrumental in implementing gender-inclusive language in all official TTU communications. Romi also serves as an associate editor for Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, working towards finding practical policy solutions to improve the environmental and social consequences of various issues, including human rights and workplace wellbeing. She is a member of, and holds various positions with CSEAR, the Center for Social and Environmental Accounting Research, a world-recognized, global community of scholars who engage with students, activists, practitioners, policy makers and other interested groups to generate and disseminate knowledge on social and environmental accounting and accountability. Romi is currently planning the 2022 North American CSEAR conference, which will be held at Rawls College.

Rawls College's definition of diversity is: a broad concept that encompasses all the unique characteristics that students, staff and faculty bring to Rawls College. Diversity includes gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation/identity, socio-economic condition, education, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs and other ideologies, but also includes diversity of thought, ideas, backgrounds and experiences.

"Because this definition is so expansive, I believe that all students, staff and faculty in Rawls can find some aspect of diversity that they wish to foster, and I am most excited to see the entire Rawls community become involved in these efforts," Cook said.
While Romi says she very much enjoys researching diversity issues and participating in various service activities, she is looking forward to making a direct impact at Rawls College.

"In this role I can be actively involved in supporting the growth of an inclusive and diverse culture, where we purposefully ensure everyone is invited to the table, has a seat at the table, and feels their voice is heard."

While continuing their respective teaching roles, Cook and Romi will help shape the vision and direction of diversity and inclusion initiatives related to Rawls College students, faculty and staff. The co-directors will assess programmatic needs, oversee diversity trainings, mentoring, outreach and advocacy. They will also work collaboratively across the Texas Tech campus to advance the university's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

"I plan to capitalize on the outstanding diversity and inclusion programming offered elsewhere on the TTU campus to benefit members of the Rawls community," Cook said.

He also plans to streamline faculty and staff recruiting procedures to enhance the diversity of applicant pools and ensure that diverse applicants enjoy fair consideration by all search committees.

Rawls College will be conducting a campus climate survey in the coming weeks to gather critical data about student, faculty and staff perceptions of diversity, equity and inclusion within the college. This feedback will be utilized by Cook, Romi and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to develop diversity and inclusion initiatives specifically tailored for Rawls College.

"We are fortunate that Drs. Cook and Romi have agreed to serve as co-directors," said Williams. "They bring extensive experience from their involvement in diversity and inclusion at the university level as well as nationally within their professional associations and the research they do. Their skills and backgrounds are complementary, and I am thrilled that they are, in fact, bringing diversity to the role of Director of Diversity within the college."

Learn more about Rawls College's commitment to diversity and inclusion.