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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln named its inaugural vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion Monday, and with it, created a new office for improving equity in those areas at the state's largest university campus.

Marco Barker will establish the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as the newest member of Chancellor Ronnie Green's administrative cabinet when he begins at UNL on April 1, the university said in a news release.

Barker, who serves in a diversity leadership role at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, will also hold an appointment as an associate professor of practice in education administration at UNL.

He has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Arkansas, a Master of Business Administration from Webster University, and his doctorate in educational leadership and research from Louisiana State University.

Before joining Westminster, considered Utah's most diverse institution of higher education, Barker worked in similar positions advancing diversity efforts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as LSU.

"Dr. Barker is going to do great things at the university," Green said. "I'm excited for him to join our team and be a member of the chancellor's cabinet."

At UNL, Barker will lead the university's strategic planning and advocacy toward creating an inclusive and equitable campus for all, including in areas such as faculty recruitment and retention, education and research.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which has been appropriated $338,000 to hire staff, $26,460 for operational costs and $100,000 to develop programming, will also work with campus leaders and university groups, as well as the Lincoln community.

Barker will earn an annual salary of $250,000, which is below the midpoint for chief diversity officers in the Big Ten Conference. John Nieto-Phillips, who leads Indiana University's diversity programming, earns $174,000 annually, while Robert Sellers makes more than $396,000 yearly at the University of Michigan.

Funding for the new Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Barker's salary, comes from UNL's general fund, which is comprised of state appropriations and tuition revenue.

A UNL spokeswoman said the funds to create the new position and office were allocated several years ago, before the NU system was forced to make budget cuts as part of a statewide fiscal belt-tightening.

Monday's announcement is the culmination of more than four years of work that began under Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who announced his intention to create a chief diversity office at UNL in a 2014 address.

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At that time, a series of racial incidents on campus highlighted that UNL had no strategy to deal with those issues, Perlman said, leading to a study of the university's existing diversity programming on campus.

As part of that study, a consultant identified eight areas surrounding diversity, inclusion and equity needing improvement at UNL, chief among them the creation of a strategic plan to address those areas.

Donde Plowman, UNL's executive vice chancellor, said Barker will be instrumental in fulfilling that goal, as well as working in other areas a consultant identified the university needs to improve related to diversity.

"Having a diverse campus community — students, faculty and staff — is key to being a world-class institution, and I am proud of our university's efforts thus far," Plowman said. "We're poised for greatness, and Marco's leadership will help move us forward."

Barker said he saw the importance the university bestowed on diversity and inclusion in reviewing UNL's plans to celebrate its 150th anniversary, as well as a previous analysis of its diversity efforts.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to create and lead this inaugural office and work with the campus and extended communities to position diversity, inclusion and equity for the next 150 years," he said. "I invite others to join me in this journey."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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