President John Pistole and members of the university’s cabinet recently appointed Mike Thigpen as Chief Diversity Officer. Thigpen serves as the Director of the Cultural Resource Center (CRC) and multicultural and international student services. He will continue there as he steps into this new position.
“Mike Thigpen is a well-known, well-respected leader on campus and in the community,” Pistole said regarding why Thigpen was chosen for the position. “He has a long history of service in representing and advocating for students of color. So when the MOSAIC team, under Dr. Marie Morris’s leadership, recommended Mike to the position, I concurred wholeheartedly.”
Along with this position, the university has also appointed an advisory group that Thigpen will serve on discussing matters of diversity on campus. Pistole shared that plans for both the officer position and group include “providing timely insights, advice and recommendations to the Cabinet about diversity issues impacting the AU campus community.”
“I want to be intentional in leading this great institution in important ways, and it seems appropriate ‘for such a time as this,’” he said. “The year 2020 has been traumatic in so many ways. Naming Mike to this new position is a statement, and an affirmation that AU is committed to diversity with ‘more than just words.’”
Thigpen said his role in this position is to help every student on campus feel like they belong and have a place at AU.
“The responsibility is to look at every area of diversity on campus, whether it’s those who are differently abled, those who have different racial identities and those who have different connections to our community,” Thigpen said. “The goal is to make sure that every student not only feels like they belong, but knows that they belong.”
As a Christian university, Thigpen believes that those principles and actions hold so much importance.
“That’s the work that I believe in so strongly,” Thigpen said. “My heartbeat is always to create a space for people, no matter where they come from and no matter what they’ve done. If we’re going to be Christians and believers, that has to be our first priority. We see it in Christ as he does that for so many people in the Bible who would not fit, but he makes room for them.”
In the position, Thigpen said that they are working to be data-driven when it comes to making decisions.
“We are using data that we have regarding what type of student thrives at the university, what type of employee thrives, things that we are deficient in and things that we do really well,” he said. “Our goal is to always become better at who we are to service our employees and students.
He hopes that the creation of this position will bring a sense of awareness and value of our differences on campus.
“We have a team called MOSAIC on our campus, and they work to make sure everyone does belong,” Thigpen stated. “That’s what is so beautiful—the idea of a mosaic. It’s all these different shapes and colors coming together to make something so beautiful. I pray that everybody starts to see that no matter how different someone is from me, they still add value to who I am. What makes us special is that everyone is different.”
With racial injustice prevalent in today’s world climate, Thigpen expressed that this position is important in regards to where the university wants to go.
“I believe that Anderson University has the ability to set a post for the way that black people and people of color should be treated,” he said. “We have a history of doing the right thing, creating alliances and developing leadership. I think we have to tap into that history and push it forward, not forgetting where we came from.”
The continuation of the MLK Day celebration and Eighth Street march is a piece of the university’s history that Thigpen hopes to see continued and magnified.
“We’re still doing those same things, but is the intensity as strong as it was before?” he said. “There needs to be an urgency to resolve the climate. We get to set the climate, not the world externally. We’ve always been told in the Bible to be the light. We are not to be hidden; we need to be vocal. I believe that God has given a voice to speak. We’re Christians, and we believe that he is able to change us.”