Oakland University Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh in front of a white screen with gold and black graffiti around him.

Around Campus|

Campus Pride

icon of a calendarJune 13, 2018

icon of a pencilBy Emell Derra Adolphus

Mr. OU

With a larger-than-life leadership style, Glenn McIntosh, Oakland University’s first-ever chief diversity officer, is settling into his new position that he calls, 'the role of a lifetime.'

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Adam Sparkes

Glenn McIntosh has a determined-to-win attitude that dates back to his adolescent years. Raised in a low-income household on the west side of Detroit, he beat inner-city adversity to graduate high school with magna cum laude honors and all-city and all-state accolades in football and track and field. These accomplishments paved the way to his dream of attending college. He was a chubby kid who was teased mercilessly because of his weight, but he beat his inner-critic to become a bodybuilder — winning Mr. Michigan in 1996, Mr. Ironman in 1997, and a slew of other titles for his athleticism.

McIntosh has since put his career as a bodybuilder behind. But, for 24 years, he’s channeled that competitive edge into fostering a welcoming environment at OU, the past five year’s serving as vice president for student affairs. Now, as OU’s first-ever chief diversity officer, McIntosh steps into the role of shaping OU’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. And, blending his unique expertise as a counselor and businessman — with the charisma of a tireless sports coach — he wants, more than anything, to see OU win.

“School spirit is the pride OU students, faculty, staff and alums carry from life-affirming experiences on our campus. It’s deeply personal, but at the same time, it is a shared experience. That’s the cornerstone of higher education, and empowering students to their full potential is our unyielding purpose.”

Glenn McIntosh

Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer

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Adam Sparkes

President Pescovitz outlined four strategic goals pivotal to the long-term success of the University, the fourth being diversity. Explain your role in ensuring this goal’s success as chief diversity officer.

Making diversity the University’s fourth strategic goal really speaks volumes about President Pescovitz’s commitment to the equity and the empowerment of our campus community members, in support of gender, race, religion, thought, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

To put it all into perspective, it’s a serious step forward. And, as vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer, my focus is on those next crucial steps. I will lead a collaborative, University-wide effort to develop and implement a strategic approach to demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion for faculty, staff, students, alumni and guests. I want to help make OU a more open and accepting place. We do this by building the cultural competency of our community members. This will have a major impact on OU’s ability to attract and retain a wealth of talent.

Your history with OU dates back to the early ’90s. How did your relationship with the University begin?

It’s a little-known fact that, two years before becoming the founding director of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI), I served as a Saturday Academy instructor for Project Upward Bound. The college preparatory program helps inner-city high school students meet college admissions standards. During that time, I met some wonderful OU faculty, staff and students who really epitomized my belief in higher education and how it can be harnessed to unlock opportunities for individuals and communities.

As CMI director, you developed and implemented programs that positively impacted retention and graduation of underrepresented students. In what ways was your mission personal for you?

As someone from a low-income family of seven, who grew up in a neighborhood where opportunities were rare, it’s been a personal dream of mine to help people from low socioeconomic backgrounds access higher education, embrace the classroom experience and co-curricular learning opportunities.

Professionally, within a year of being in that position, I created the Oakland University Trustee Academic Success program. The program garnered local, state and national recognition for its retention and graduation rates for underrepresented minorities. Today, it continues to be a premier program.

“I want to help make OU a more open and accepting place. We do this by building the cultural competency of our community members. This will have a major impact on OU’s ability to attract and retain a wealth of talent.”

Glenn McIntosh

Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer

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Adam Sparkes

How has this progress benefited the University since then?

Most notably, our campus has become a reputable, regional university because we are doing a lot of things well across campus. Our significant growth in enrollment, state-of-the-art residence halls and learning facilities, technological enhancements and Division I athletics has transformed our school and attracted a much more diverse campus community.

Describe your drive and leadership style.

As an athlete, whether playing a team sport or individual sport, I learned the value of teamwork and acquired an appreciation for all types of differences. But the goal was always to win. I move that mindset and work ethic into my leadership roles. My approach is to create a supportive team environment where each person on my team feels valued and can utilize their strengths to better serve the campus community.

As chief diversity officer, how do you define success?

I define success as the process of setting diversity, equity and inclusion goals and metrics for the campus community and consistently taking action to close the gap between our current and desired campus climate. This includes making the student, faculty and staff diversity composition better represent our geographical region.

Out of all the awards and accolades you have received, which one do you hold most dear?

The Mr. Michigan title I received for bodybuilding in 1997. Winning that contest demonstrated how we can spiritually, mentally and physically transform ourselves through dedication and hard work. That achievement changed my approach to living and gave me the mindset to be intentional and head-on in fulfilling my heart’s desire.

What was the highlight of your college experience?

Well, I’m fascinated by people, so going from a high school population of 400 students to a student body of more than 14,000 students was eyeopening.

I quickly embraced the reality of “differences” without placing a good or bad label on it. Consequently, I grew into being a person who put helping others first. I served as an orientation group leader, resident adviser, basketball team tutor, student government president and fraternity president.

Is that a reflection of the environment you worked to create at OU?

The most basic way I’ve tried to reproduce that experience at OU is by role modelling cultural competency, empathy and support for others. Like a pendulum, I swing from using a subtle to direct approach in challenging faculty, staff, students and alums to make OU an inclusive environment. And I have played a significant role in creating complementary programs, services and university departments, including the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, Veterans Support Services Office, and the Gender and Sexuality Center, to support access and inclusion.

Over time, I have forged cross-divisional partnerships to help create a welcoming climate campus-wide. While I know we still have work to do, we have made measurable progress. And it’s an honor, a dream, and a privilege to be the guiding force behind where we are headed next.

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