University News

University of New Haven Names Diversity Scholar, Former NYPD Officer, Past Prosecutor New VP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access and Belonging

Barbara J. Lawrence, J.D., M.P.A., joins the university from Rider University, where she served as the institution's inaugural VP of diversity.

June 26, 2023

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The University of New Haven announced today that Barbara J. Lawrence, J.D., M.P.A. has been named vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging (DEIAB).

Barbara J. Lawrence
Barbara J. Lawrence, J.D., M.P.A.

Working with stakeholders across the university, she will lead the continued development and implementation of the University's DEIAB strategic plan and all University-wide DEIAB efforts, including providing oversight for the University's Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion. She will officially join the University on July 1.

"Barbara is a passionate, student-centered leader who has a distinguished track record of fostering inclusive excellence," said Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., the university's interim president. "Her background as an academic leader, a professor, and a public servant working in law enforcement is exceptional. We are confident in Barbara's ability to build on the good work already taking place on campus and to further enhance the programming and reach of our DEIAB strategic plan. Together, we will help ensure all members of our community experience a sense of true belonging as Chargers.

"Barbara will work closely with many members of the Charger community and the Greater West Haven and New Haven communities in advancing, implementing, and creating new DEIAB initiatives that have an important impact on our community and on the lives of our students from across the globe," continued Dr. Zenger.

"Barbara is a talented practitioner-scholar who has dedicated the last few decades of her life to helping individuals and organizations on their journeys toward better diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging practices," said search committee co-chairs Ric Baker, Ed.D., senior associate dean of students, and Danielle Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice and director of research for the university's Tow Youth Justice Institute. "We are ecstatic to welcome her as she begins her role as the university's vice president for DEIAB. Her background in developing and leading diversity-related programming as well as her professional experiences, especially those in criminal justice and justice reform, made her the ideal candidate to help advance the impact of the DEIAB initiatives taking place across our university community."

"Barbara is a passionate, student-centered leader who has a distinguished track record of fostering inclusive excellence"Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., interim president

Lawrence joins the university from Rider University, where she served as the institution's inaugural vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer since 2021. She also was the first African American to serve as vice president at the cabinet level in Rider University's 158-year history.

During her first year at Rider, she created and launched Rider's new Division of Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She also provided oversight for Rider's Inclusive Excellence Plan; advised the president and cabinet on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion; and chaired the President's Council on Inclusion.

In addition, Lawrence collaborated with Academic Affairs to embed justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into the curriculum; worked with Enrollment Management to build out bridge and pipeline programs to diversify the student body; and partnered with Student Affairs to help ensure mental health support was available for all students. She also led efforts in advocating for resources and support needed to apply best practices to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives.

Prior to Rider, Lawrence served as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Guilford College, where she held several administrative roles and was the founding director of the Wiser Justice Program, Guilford's Higher Education in Prison Initiative, and she was founding chair of the Greensboro Interim Civilian Police Review Committee. At Guilford, she also served as associate academic dean, chair of the Department of Justice and Policy Studies, and as associate professor of criminal justice and community & justice studies.

Before her career in higher-education, Barbara was an NYPD police officer, investigator, and trainer; an assistant prosecuting attorney for the Marion County (Indiana) Prosecutor's Office; and a training consultant for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, the San Francisco County Court Youth Treatment and Education Center, and other juvenile and criminal justice programs and police departments.

Lawrence is a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, and the Association of Title IX Administrators. She earned her J.D. from the Indiana University School of Law, her Master of Public Administration from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, and her B.S. in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.