Barbee Oakes named University’s first chief diversity officer

Dr. Barbee Oakes, Director, Wake Forest Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Barbee Oakes, chief diversity officer

Barbee Oakes, one of the most recognized leaders in Wake Forest diversity and inclusion initiatives, has been promoted to a new position expanding her opportunities to advance those efforts.

Recently, Oakes was appointed as Wake Forest’s first chief diversity officer. She retains her assistant provost title and responsibilities, developed over her six years in that role.

“As our first chief diversity officer, Barbee is beautifully positioned to advance strategic planning and execution of Wake Forest’s diversity and inclusion initiatives,” said Provost Rogan Kersh. “She will confer regularly with the president’s cabinet, deans, governance boards and the larger campus community on issues involving the University’s progress on inclusive excellence initiatives.”

Oakes has her sights set on several high-priority goals for this year and beyond.

“Continuing to proactively address campus climate issues remains a very high University priority this year,” Oakes said. “With increased diversity, the challenges we face in establishing policies, programs and practices to ensure everyone feels included become more complex and nuanced.”

With Vice Provost Lynn Sutton, Oakes co-chairs the Campus Climate Action Implementation Team, which will oversee the implementation of recommendations from the Deliberative Dialogue on Building Community at Wake Forest.

While moving forward, she is also focused on documenting how far the University has come on diversity and inclusion efforts. “Wake Forest has made tremendous progress in transforming our institutional culture to foster inclusive excellence during the past five years,” Oakes said. “We are building a framework to realize an intercultural mindset by leveraging our growing international diversity and providing cultural competency education initiatives for all students.”

“Our vision was to redefine diversity at Wake Forest, enhance the cultural elasticity of our faculty, staff, and students; and establish equitable institutional policies and programs,” Oakes said. “Our Office of Diversity and Inclusion now encompasses Multicultural Affairs, LGBTQ Center, Women’s Center, Diversity Education, Diversity and Inclusion associate deans, a network of campus partnerships, cultural competence initiatives, diversity admissions professionals and institutional policy revisions to foster equity for underrepresented faculty, staff and students.”

Oakes received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wake Forest and her doctorate in exercise physiology and nutrition at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was a member of the health and exercise science faculty at Wake Forest before serving as director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs from 1995-2009. Oakes was also on the faculty at Penn State University and Arizona State University.