City of Lawrence announces first director of equity and inclusion

photo by: contributed photo

Dr. Farris Muhammad

Lawrence City Manager Craig Owens announced Monday that Farris Muhammad has been hired to be the city’s first director of equity and inclusion.

Muhammad was selected after a nationwide search from a field of over 120 applicants, according to a city news release. During the process, the city used several interview panels of community members and staff to provide input. Panelists included representatives of organizations that serve marginalized populations, advocacy groups, city staff and local leaders working in diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as other community institutions and organizations. Owens said in the release that he was eager for Muhammad to join the city as it works more intentionally to advance equity.

“Farris is a skilled listener and a visionary, result-oriented leader,” Owens said. “His skills and abilities will be a tremendous asset to our organization and to our community.”

Muhammad has over 12 years of experience as a diversity, equity and inclusion practitioner. Most recently, he was the chief diversity and inclusion officer with the City of Peoria, Ill. Prior to that, he served as the executive director of the Multicultural Family Center with the City of Dubuque, Iowa, and as an adjunct sociology professor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northwood University in Midland, Mich.; a master’s of business administration from Eastern Michigan University; and a Ph.D. in education administration and policy. He also holds a graduate certificate in Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research from the University of Georgia.

In response to being selected for the position, Muhammad said in the release that he looked forward to working to help enhance the understanding of inclusive leadership, diversity and equity and ensure that the city is not only a welcoming and inclusive space for all but also an equitable workplace for all. He said his efforts would include working with different departments, organizations, and community and advocacy groups.

Owens asked the City Commission for permission to start interviewing for a senior level manager to serve as the city’s director of equity and inclusion in March, as the Journal-World previously reported.

Muhammad will begin his position with the city on Nov. 9.


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