Liz Tovar, the University of Iowa’s associate athletics director for student-athlete academic services, has been appointed interim associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion (AVP for DEI) by Kevin Kregel, interim executive vice president and provost. Tovar will begin her new, full-time role on Aug. 17 and will continue to engage with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics as part of her new responsibilities.
“Dr. Tovar has demonstrated great capacity for guiding and uplifting both students and her colleagues,” says Kregel. “I am happy to welcome her to a new position and excited to work with her. I would also like to thank her for agreeing to fill this crucial role during a particularly challenging time. Our community is not exempt from the systemic disparities and harms that current events bring to the public eye, and although we are welcoming a new leader, we must remember that the responsibility for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion belongs to us all.”
As part of her role in UI Athletics, Tovar has supervised daily operations within academic services and managed the academic and personal support services for student-athletes across all 24 UI sports programs. She also serves on the UI Athletics senior management team, numerous campus committees, and oversees diversity educational efforts for student-athletes.
“I’d like to thank Interim Provost Kregel and President Harreld for selecting me to serve our campus in this vital leadership role and support our university on a broader scale,” says Tovar. “I appreciate the continued and unwavering support from Gary Barta, director of Athletics, during this temporary move. I truly look forward to fulfilling the role and responsibility of the associate vice president for DEI, as well as assist university leadership with finding a permanent leader.”
Tovar began a career in academic services in 1998 at Kansas University (KU) in Lawrence, Kansas, where she also received undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees in psychology, clinical psychology, and educational leadership and policy studies, respectively. Before joining Iowa in 2013, Tovar managed student services and advised student-athletes in academic, personal, and professional development at KU, The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.
Tovar says that during this unprecedented time regarding topics of race and inclusivity that it is critical the UI maintain ongoing DEI conversations and initiatives, as well as continue embedding DEI into the fabric of the university.
“I am keenly aware that while the UI has made great strides in setting DEI standards, we are not without our challenges,” says Tovar. “I firmly believe the foundation and decisions we set forth can positively impact the UI now and for years to come. A key component of this is working with campus and community leaders on incorporating more transparency and accountability. I welcome the opportunity to listen to all members of the community, including underrepresented and marginalized groups, whose voices have not always been heard, and enact change where possible.”
The search for a permanent AVP for DEI began last spring and is expected to conclude in spring 2021.
Kregel also appointed Tabitha Wiggins, associate director of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement, as interim director of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment (CDE) within the DEI division. Wiggins began her new role on Aug. 4.
In her new role with the CDE, Wiggins fills the position vacated by Nadine Petty, who accepted a position as chief diversity officer and associate vice president for community, equity, and diversity at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. Wiggins joined Iowa in 2011 and her accomplishments include work on the Excellence Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan and the implementation of the Young, Gifted and Black Living Learning Community. In addition, she has served on numerous campus committees, including as co-chair of the Campus Inclusion Team and chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration of Human Rights Week.