President Susan M. Donovan announced today that Dr. Tomarra Adams has been named Bellarmine’s new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. She will begin her new duties on July 1.
Adams is currently Dean for Undergraduate Education and an associate professor of African American Studies and Social Work at Spalding University.
A commitment to equity and inclusion is a major pillar of Bellarmine’s strategic plan
, “Tradition and Transformation.” The Chief Diversity,
Equity and Inclusion Officer advises Donovan and other Cabinet members on university-wide initiatives, programs and policies and co-chairs the President’s Advisory Board on Equity and Inclusion.
“It is absolutely essential that we not only continue to diversify the Bellarmine community—students, faculty and staff—but also that we cultivate a true sense of belonging for everyone,” Donovan said. “Tomarra Adams’
experience as a faculty member and her commitment to putting students first will ensure that we support and empower all students to achieve their greatest potential here.”
Adams said that Bellarmine’s mission, vision and commitment to equity and inclusion drew her to the university. “Knowing there is a strong cadre of colleagues and students who have been championing this work and are eager to continue to reflect,
listen, learn and grow as a community bolsters my enthusiasm to join Bellarmine,” she said.
“It is clear that the leadership has renewed vision and synergy in expanding accessible pathways to a college degree for those who have been historically marginalized, having a faculty and staff representative of a shifting demographic of students,
and creating opportunities for meaningful institutional change, partnerships, and teaching that embrace an inclusive environment both within and outside of the classroom.”
During the past academic year, Bellarmine finalized a new affirmative action plan; conducted a campus accessibility audit; conducted training and professional development workshops for several offices; and launched an internal grant program to support
diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives from faculty, staff and students. The current first-year class is the most diverse in Bellarmine’s history, with 25 percent of the students identifying as students of color.
“Students finding their salient identity—their ‘why’—is the foundation of my work,” Adams said. “When students see themselves in the curriculum, teaching, leading, and/or planning, they succeed.”
As the Dean for Undergraduate Education at Spalding University, Adams focuses on the success of a diverse community of students. She helped to craft a new university-wide aspirational diversity statement and conducted an inventory of the current diversity,
equity and inclusion activity across the institution. A new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer position at that institution is partially funded by a grant that she wrote in collaboration with the Advancement Office.
She worked with Spalding’s First-Year Experience Office to introduce the Shirley Chisholm Learning Community with focus on the intersectionality of race, gender and class and community activism. She supported the School of Liberal Studies faculty
in creating a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies as well as a Women’s and Gender Studies minor.
Adams also collaborated with community partners to begin a mentor program for first-generation college students; worked with the Center for Accessibility Services to reimagine its work to include learning equity; and supported efforts of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance
(SAGA) group to prepare for their campuswide activities and project their platform to other administrators, among other initiatives.
“I also recognize the need of faculty and staff to be seen, heard, and valued,” Adams said. “I have worked as a faculty member and a member of Student and Academic Affairs, which provides me with actual experience from multiple university
perspectives. It is imperative to provide spaces to address climate issues, workloads, wage gaps and access to professional development/advancement without real or perceived reprimand, especially if or when they impact members of our diverse communities.”
She noted that as the country’s demographics shift and more racially and ethnically diverse students enter college, “it is critical to have our faculty and staff reflect our student population.” She has worked with academic chairs and
directors at Spalding University to intentionally seek more diversity among faculty and on the university’s Leadership Team/President’s Council.
Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Pan-African Studies, a master’s in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Louisville. She has spent much of her career at U of L—as a social worker,
Interim Director of the Multicultural Center, an Assistant Dean for Advising, a professor and director of Undergraduate Studies in Pan-African Studies.
She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the National Council on Black Studies, the Southern Conference on African American Studies and the National Association of Academic Advising.
Adams succeeds Dr. Donald “DJ” Mitchell Jr., Bellarmine’s inaugural CDEIO, who was appointed in June 2020 and departed earlier this year to become the first Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Molloy College in New York.