UW Diversity and Equity Division Welcomes
Taking on the Struggle for Diversity
|Dr. Sherri Charleston (l-r), Tracy Williams and Dr.
Cheryl Gittens are new additions to Vice-
Provost Patrick Sims’ leadership team in the UW
Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational
Family Insurance in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
“I’m from Milwaukee,” Williams said. “I did a lot of work with organizations like Medical College of Wisconsin and the Greater Milwaukee
Foundation. I have also been an entrepreneur. I consulted for over 3-4 years with foundations and organizations in New York and California and
Milwaukee. I started out wanting to be a psychologist, but I ended up in family studies with a minor in psychology. And then I have a master’s
in business. I wanted to impact the rules, and so, I couldn’t just stay as a social worker. I needed to elevate and understand systems and
system change. That’s what led me to business.”
Williams has a bachelor’s degree in individual and family development with a minor in psychology from Northern Illinois University, a master’s
degree in Business Management from Cardinal Stritch University, and additional study at Harvard University and New York University.
Gittens hails from New Jersey where she earned an undergraduate and a master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University and her Ph.
D. in education from George Washington University. As an interim associate vice-provost, Gittens will be responsible for the PEOPLE Program
and the Center for Educational Opportunity. She also supports the data management unit of the division.
“I have 28 years of experience in higher education working at both community colleges and research one institutions, primarily focusing on
academic achievement,” Gittens said. “That is my passion and most of my work has been dedicated to opening up opportunity and access to
education for students from low-income backgrounds, students who might be the first from their families to go to college and students who
have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. That has led me to work in programs state and federally-funded programs like the
TRIO Programs here at the university, student support services, and baccalaureate achievement programs. And I am a product of similar
programs back in New Jersey.”
Charleston has the most wide-ranging set of duties as an interim assistant vice-provost.
“My portfolio includes the Office of Multicultural Art Initiative and First Wave Program, the Posse Program as well as the office of equity and
diversity, which includes our disability coordinator’s office and the office of the Affirmative Action compliance unity. And finally I do research
and program management. Those are the four areas that I oversee in addition to the general support of a variety projects that we have going on
in the division.”
But she comes well-prepared for the position. She attained her undergraduate degree at Columbia University, her Ph.D. in history at the
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and her law degree from the University of Wisconsin.
“I actually started working with the Posse Program when I was a graduate student and then went and worked for the state elections board,
which was formally the Government Accountability Board,” Charleston said. “I then came back to the university to serve as director of pre-law
advising and then director of pre-health advising and then director of both simultaneously. So I have been working in advising on campus over
the past few years.”
The qualifications and experiences of the three new staff fit their new positions almost like a glove, like their work of a lifetime was in
preparation for and culminated in their positions at DDEEA.
“What I believe I bring to the position is experience,” Williams said. “I do have 20 years of experience in working in diversity and inclusion.
Most recently, I was at American Family Insurance as their diversity and inclusion advisor. We just established a partnership with American
Family. Jack Salzwedel, the CEO, is very committed to diversity. And by the University of Wisconsin having a partnership with American
Family, to me, the synergy at this point in time is right on. The timing is perfect to merge our diversity efforts and take it to another level. I
believe having the corporate headquarters here in Madison and the University of Wisconsin being the largest employer at the state, I think that
is just a great partnership to take diversity to the next level. Bringing that insight into this world will help us move that partnership forward.”
“In a substantive way, I also believe in innovation,” Williams continued. “I like to take things out of the box and shake things up a little bit. I
think that is where Patrick is at in his leadership, wanting us to really take the division to another level. And with the kind of thinking that I
have, I hope to bring that to the table.”
All three senior administrators will bring innovation and experience to their positions that will help the whole division elevate.
Next issue: The hard work of diversity
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
During 2017, the UW-Madison Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational
Achievement has gone through some restructuring as staff has retired and the financial
landscape has shifted. And so during the past few months, Vice-Provost Patrick Sims
has brought on some new senior managers to divide the load as the division directly
serves the students in its six pipeline programs and works to influence the diversity
experiences of all students, staff and faculty on campus.
Dr. Cheryl Gittens and Dr. Sherri Charleston have joined Dr. Gloria Hawkins as interim
assistant vice-provosts responsible for two pipeline programs each and other
administrative responsibilities within the division. And Tracy Williams joined the staff
as the interim senior director of external relationships, partnerships and development.
Williams will be responsible for assisting the division in establishing relationships with
businesses, organizations and communities that will enhance the ability of the division
to do its work. Williams work with the Wisconsin Alumni Association and American