After nearly 20 years of serving the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life as director of community partnerships, Shirley Mark has assumed the newly-created role of assistant dean for diversity and inclusion. Mark will oversee Tisch College’s work in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in addition to continuing her responsibilities as director of community partnerships.
Tisch College Dean Dayna Cunningham expressed excitement that Mark, with her considerable experience and community connections, is taking on this role.
“Shirley brings unimpeachable moral authority and deep institutional knowledge about our ongoing work of building multi-racial democracy,” Cunningham wrote in an email to the Daily. “From an institutional perspective, this important step reinforces Tisch College’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution and brings us in-line with the organizational structure of other Schools at Tufts.”
Mark has been heavily involved in racial equity work on Tufts’ campus from the beginning of her tenure at Tisch College. When UniversityPresident Anthony Monaco established the Council on Diversity in 2012, she served on a working group that focused on increasing diversity among the university’s graduate and professional students. More recently, she served on the Working Group on Campus Safety and Policing, a workstream of the Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution initiative. The working group was established in 2020 in the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and was tasked with evaluating the Tufts University Police Department’s structure and operations. The workstream’s February 2021 reportincluded recommendations relating to the TUPD’s mission, organization, training model and accountability but did not reach a conclusion about whether TUPD officers should be armed. Rather, it recommended the creation of the Working Group on TUPD Arming, which is currently developing its recommendations.
Mark told the Daily that she feels the creation of the new assistant deanship “validates the importance” of the equity issues she has focused on throughout her career.
“I've always done this [type of work],” Mark said. “[The role] creates a new opportunity for me to dig a little bit deeper. … [Diversity, equity, inclusion and justice] is a social justice issue, but it’s also an ethical and moral issue, which I think more and more people have come to remember and realize in the last couple of years.”
As Tisch Colllege’s assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, Mark will work closely with other departments, such as the Office of Government and Community Relations, on numerous projects. These include the Presidential Symposium, an annual conference intended to bring the Tufts community and surrounding residential communities together to discuss relevant issues, and the Tisch College Community Research Center, which supports research projects undertaken by Tufts students and faculty in collaboration with community partners.
Rocco DiRico, Tufts’ executive director of government and community relations, looks forward to strengthening the relationship between Tisch College and the Office of Government and Community Relations during Mark’s tenure as assistant dean.
“Shirley is a tireless advocate for underserved and underrepresented communities in the Greater Boston area,” DiRico wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are so fortunate to be able to work with her and look forward to strengthening our partnership with Tisch College.”
One means of advancing diversity and inclusion at Tisch College that Mark has identified is by expanding the opportunities for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work available in the Tisch Summer Fellows Program, which allows over 100 students each summer to intern with civically-engaged partner organizations, such as nonprofits or government offices.
“While there have always been opportunities for students to learn about DEI and to be immersed [in] DEI issues, I think moving forward we’ll be digging it a little deeper,” Mark said.
Mark also wants each employee of Tisch College to set goals related to diversity and inclusion during their performance planning.
“Each staff person will be responsible for … thinking about their own learning goals but also how DEI is relevant to their work,” she said.
Speaking more broadly about the university’s commitment to DEI, Mark identified the relative lack of diversity among the administration as an area with room for improvement.
“The leadership at Tufts is still not as racially diverse as it ought to be, to be reflective of society,” she said. “We can do better.”