Kansas University has hired an administrator to lead minority recruitment for faculty and staff.
Maurice Bryan, who has been provost at Ottawa University for three years, began work Monday in Lawrence as associate vice provost for diversity and equity.
Bryan is no stranger to KU, where he worked as director of equal opportunity from 1993 to 2001. He said his new position would be related to his previous one, but it would not involve compliance issues or discrimination complaints that were common in his previous job.
Bryan said he preferred to look at diversity in terms that transcend physical appearances and skin color.
"I think what is more difficult and more rewarding in the end is to get people who truly think differently than us and bring a different approach to issues, emotions or thoughts," Bryan said. "In some situations, we're actually uncomfortable with that."
He said attracting faculty and staff with different backgrounds and viewpoints would enrich classroom discussions and help existing faculty and staff grow as people.
"Sometimes people think just changing the physical bodies, without really changing ourselves, can work," Bryan said. "What we really need to do is to change how we do things, how we think, and be presented with new ideas and new perspectives."
KU Provost Richard Lariviere said in a news release that the university aimed to give students a mix of different viewpoints and backgrounds in its faculty.
"Maurice knows this university, he knows diversity matters and he has the knowledge and skills to lead this important effort," Lariviere said.
In 1997, KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway set goals for minority and female faculty numbers. By 2006, the number of minority faculty had increased 75 percent and the number of female faculty was up 41 percent.
Bryan said that after three years at a smaller, liberal arts university, he would need to update himself in order to evaluate the diversity status of major research universities across the country.
But he said many people still lacked appreciation for the importance of diversity at educational institutions.
"We still have a long way to go toward people embracing what is, in my mind, crucial to a democratic nation," Bryan said.