Chief Diversity Officer and Assistant Provost Barbee Oakes will become Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on Sept. 1.
Appointed Wake Forest’s first Chief Diversity Officer in 2015, Oakes has also served as Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion since 2009.
“We are grateful for Barbee’s years of pioneering leadership and the vital, central role she has had in making Wake Forest a more diverse and inclusive place,” said Provost Rogan Kersh in a message to the Wake Forest community. “She has been unwavering in her commitment to creating an inclusive environment for every member of the Wake Forest community. We are sad she will leave her alma mater and professional home for some three decades, but know UNLV will benefit from her extraordinary combination of wisdom and passion for fostering community.”
Oakes was the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (now the Intercultural Center) for 14 years prior to her appointment as Assistant Provost. She came to Wake Forest as an assistant professor in the health and exercise science department in 1989.
Under her leadership, Wake Forest implemented key retention strategies that positioned the University among the nation’s most successful institutions with respect to graduating college students of color. She has worked collaboratively with faculty, administrators, staff and students to develop initiatives to broaden the curriculum, increase the number of minority faculty, increase diversity education, better prepare students to work and lead in a global society and, in countless ways, create an inclusive and engaging campus culture.
Oakes was also the lead author of Wake Forest’s strategic plan to enhance diversity and inclusion, among the first and most expansive such university strategies when published nearly a decade ago. Many of the initiatives proposed there, including creating an LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center, have come to fruition under her supervision.
In 2012, Diverse Issues in Higher Education nationally recognized her as one of the “25 Women Making a Difference” to foster community on college campuses.
An exercise physiologist by training, Oakes (’80, MA ’81) received a B.S. with honors and an M.A. from Wake Forest. As a Hylton Smith Fellow, she received a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and nutrition from the University of Tennessee and was the first African American woman with a doctorate in the American College of Sports Medicine. Oakes has held faculty appointments at Arizona State and Penn State University.
The University will conduct a national search for her replacement.