President’s Office

President’s speeches, letters, and articles

Subject: Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity and A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics

September 28, 2021

Dear Reed faculty, staff, and students,

Today I write to share the important news that Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity and A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics, has decided to step down from her position as dean at the end of the calendar year.

photo of Mary JamesThe college has benefitted in immeasurable ways during Mary’s leadership of the Office for Institutional Diversity (OID). Serving in the dean’s role since 2014, Mary has exponentially advanced Reed’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. She has worked determinedly to fully integrate DEI into Reed’s existing structures, as described in the office’s mission statement: The Office for Institutional Diversity's mission is to create institutional vision and strategy and implement systems and infrastructure to support the college's commitment to being a diverse and inclusive learning, teaching and working environment.

Mary helped launch the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and has partnered with its directors since its inception, striving to integrate considerations of diversity and inclusion in all programming. She has worked with the Dean of the Faculty and the CTL director to monitor, evaluate, and improve mentoring for junior faculty, particularly those from underrepresented groups, and offers informal check-ins with both junior faculty of color and their mentors.

Mary has worked tirelessly and in collaboration with the faculty Committee on Advancement and Tenure (CAT) and Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) to establish inclusive faculty hiring protocols and procedures, and she has worked with Human Resources in advancing DEI efforts in staff hiring. As a member of the faculty Committee on Diversity, Mary helped to develop a structured request to all academic departments to undertake specific actions to make their departments more inclusive and/or anti-racist. OID launched the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) grants program, providing support to aid academic departments in implementing DEI initiatives.

Mary has been a dynamic force in centering the student experience in all aspects of the college’s operations, with a focus on creating a kinder and healthier campus culture and climate. Mary co-chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Success, formed as a result of 2016–17 strategic planning efforts—where she served on the Strategic Priorities Committee and co-chaired the Student Success Working Group—and operated across campus constituencies to formulate a student success implementation plan.

With Mary’s leadership, OID has offered workshops, programs, and other professional development opportunities for faculty and staff members to increase awareness and skills in creating inclusive and anti-racist classrooms, living spaces, and workplaces. She directed the conception and creation of the Staff Committee on Diversity, which is now in its second year. That committee recently formed affinity groups centered on community building for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) staff members, Black/African American staff members, and LGBTQ+ staff members.

In 2020, Mary assumed oversight and management of the Multicultural Resource Center and SEEDS (Students for Education, Equity, and Direct Service) and has worked to develop a unified vision, mission statements, and long and short term goals for this more comprehensive Office for Institutional Diversity. Because DEI values and goals cut across divisions and units as institutional, shared commitments, Mary and OID intrinsically connect to every office in the college.

Mary has managed communications to the community to keep us all informed on DEI initiatives, as well as to respond to horrific national events and urgent racial justice reckoning. The DEI website has been relaunched to help keep the community informed and to foster deeper and more sustained support that many community members need. Mary has made it a priority to provide important and regular DEI activity updates and reports to staff and faculty as a consistent meeting agenda item.

Mary has been an important partner on the President’s Senior Staff team, bringing a wealth of experience and talent to a broad array of issues on campus. She frequently contributes to the college’s success in and outside of her portfolio areas, helping to set strategic goals for the college, assisting in crisis management, and leading efforts to improve pedagogy at the college.

Mary has emerged as a regional and national leader on issues related to DEI. She has been an active participant and a resource in professional organizations, sharing best practices and building liaisons with other chief diversity officers at liberal arts colleges through participation in LADO (Liberal Arts Diversity Officers) and the NW5C (Northwest 5 Consortium) schools.

I am grateful to Mary for holding the college to a high standard and believing in the prospect of a more inclusive and anti-racist future. She has laid a strong foundation and solid framework for the ever-evolving and essential work of advancing DEI efforts at Reed. Mary will remain a member of the faculty as A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics. An interim dean will be appointed to succeed Mary in the Office for Institutional Diversity, and my office will launch a national search in the spring.

All my best,


Audrey Bilger