Patrick Sims Named Deputy Vice-Chancellor
A Seat at the Table
|In Jujly 2018, Patrick Sims was named deputy vice-chancellor for
diversity and inclusion at UW-Madison. Sims has served as
vice-provost for the past five years.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank decided to do something about it and while the UW-Madison budget was tight, she could grant a title change, in essence
promoting Sims to deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at UW-Madison. While Sims still had his same pay rate and duties, the title change could possibly
facilitate his efforts and the team that works with him. Title matters in some spaces.
“It’s an acknowledgment of that work,” Sims said. “The scope of my office goes beyond my programming space. What I appreciate now is the opportunity to engage
directly with senior leadership and the chancellor in particular. I can hear from her what her thoughts are more intentionally around some of these larger pieces that
affect diversity and inclusion across the board and not just the student piece. There are parts of it now where I engage with the provost and the chancellor. We’re all
having those conversations around, ‘How can we put together a program that can attract the best and the brightest faculty with an emphasis on faculty of color?’ We’
re having those conversations. I was already having those conversations. But now I’m actively able to hear how the chancellor is chewing on some of these issues.
And it doesn’t get filtered and I hear things directly.”
And it also means that there will be another peer voice at the table identifying diversity and inclusion issues and giving a perspective on them.
“That’s the beauty of having those multiple perspectives at the table,” Sims said. “If you look at the chancellor’s executive team, she has a pretty robust team. Now
that I am more formally a part of the team, it still enables me to have the same conversations, but it just makes it easier because we are all on the same playing field.
But I think the chancellor wanted to make sure that she had a team that was at that level that gave that counsel and insight that she was looking for at the vice-
chancellor level. Being able to help the conversation both with the provost and the chancellor is the only thing that is changing in terms of my day-to-day reality.”
And Sims reality is running DDEEA and making sure that its programs are meeting the immediate and long term needs of the students in its programs.
“The educational achievement piece is what distinguishes my office from my counterparts’ offices at colleges like Iowa, Michigan or Purdue,” Sims said. “We have a
very strong portfolio around student engagement. Some can make the argument that it veers into student affairs spaces too. But because our programs are academic
in nature — you think about the academic coaching, tutoring and enrichment services — it’s not that we bifurcate the student experience, but if the student needs
some supportive and academic space, they are going to get that through the PEOPLE Program. They are going to get that mentoring and coaching. Of course we offer
that emotional, cultural and social support as well. If you think about the cultural center, those spaces live with the Division of Student Life under the new vice-
chancellor of Student Affairs. We work in tandem on those pieces. I appreciate it because it doesn’t put all of onus and burden on me, that everything related to
diversity, everything for Black and Brown or LGBTQ doesn’t just live with Patrick. That’s a shared responsibility.”
Sims emphasized that the title change hasn’t changed who he is or the nature of his life.
“In the day-to-day interaction with our students, interacting with people like you and our peers and community leaders and elders, I’m still me,” Sims emphasized.
And while the title change is nice, Sims knows that he has to continue to produce in order to retain the position. There is no tenure involved. And the tile change may
end up helping out down the road.
“This isn’t a gig that I am going to be in for the rest of my life,” Sims acknowledged. “But I think the leverage will show up to the extent that Patrick moves on to the
next phase, it helps to say that I was the deputy vice-chancellor as opposed to the vice-provost. That’s years down the road. I have a commitment. Most of these
roles have a five-year period on them. But you know that we all serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority, so I could be let go tomorrow. For me, I get to go
back — God forbid if anything like that would happen — to being a full professor or I could choose to walk away. My next step — if I step out of this role and I don’t
leave the institution — is I get to go back to being a full professor. That’s not a bad gig either. That’s my safety net and some people don’t even have that.”
Sims is working on a couple of new initiatives. One of the problems that faculty and students of color face is that the demands of campus life often prevent them from
forming their own sense of community and community connections. This leads to them being isolated without the proper bonding. Sims wants to be more intentional
about helping new faculty of color, especially, create those bonds during the beginning of their tenure before all of the heavy lifting begins.
“You’ve heard of our Leadership Communities for Institutional Change & Excellence,” Sims said. “They’ve had this concept for quite some time. The Affinity Group
takes a group of individuals around a particular theme or concept. They have a shared interest in exploring that theme or concept. And you do programming. You read
materials. You put together ways of just being in each other’s presence. I’m taking it a step further to really look at our retention, particularly for our faculty and our
staff of color. We have spaces where we have mixers. We have a recognition for Outstanding Women of Color. We have our faculty of color reception. I’m wanting to
ratchet it up to be a more personal approach. I want to engage key individuals on our campus who will be willing to open up their homes and say, ‘Let’s break bread
and let’s talk about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community on this campus.’ And we will build affinity in that way. I’m looking for individuals who will
be able to host these gatherings and have those kinds of candid conversations that enable folks to let their hair hang down and learn what the resources are on
campus and in the community.”
Sims wants to encourage more informal spaces and information sharing.
“‘You have to talk to so and so’ because they are running this program over at such and such and you should get your kid in that program,’” Sims said about how
information gets shared. “Or ‘You need to go to JP’s to get your hair cut.’ Or this is who you talk to when you want to shop at this particular place.’ It’s those more
informal spaces that are so important and yet we don’t necessarily see that on the front end when we come into this community.’”
Next issue: More initiatives
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
For the past five years, Patrick Sims has been the vice-provost for diversity and
inclusion at UW-Madison. In essence, he has been wearing two hats. One is as the chief
diversity officer on campus, weighing in on diversity and inclusion issues and problems
as they have presented themselves on the UW-Madison campus. The other is as the head
of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Education Achievement, the division where the
PEOPLE Program, Posse, First Wave and other direct-service diversity programs are
And while Sims sat at the Chancellor’s Executive Committee meetings, especially when
issues touching on diversity and inclusion — some would argue that all issues impact
diversity and inclusion — were discussed, Sims technically wasn’t a peer at those
meetings as he was a vice-provost and the others were provosts or vice-chancellors. In
some spaces, titles do mean something.
After five years of working on these diversity and inclusion issues at a major higher
education institution, Sims started to attract some attention from head hunters and other
colleges looking to beef up their diversity efforts. Sims notified those above him of the
contacts just in case one of them was too good to pass up and Sims didn’t want them to
be caught off-guard.