Barbee Oakes named chief diversity officer at UNLV

This announcement was emailed by Provost Rogan Kersh to students, faculty and staff on July 6:

Dear Wake Forest Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Barbee Oakes

After three decades as a champion of diversity and inclusion at Wake Forest, Dr. Barbee Oakes will become the Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on September 1.

Appointed Wake Forest’s first Chief Diversity Officer in 2015, Dr. Oakes has also served as Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion since 2009.

We are grateful for Dr. Oakes’ years of pioneering leadership and the vital, central role she has had in making Wake Forest a more diverse and inclusive place.  She has been unwavering in her commitment to creating an inclusive environment for every member of the Wake Forest community.  Though sad she will leave her alma mater and professional home for 28 years, we know UNLV will benefit from her extraordinary combination of wisdom and passion for fostering community.

Dr. Oakes was Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (now the Intercultural Center) for 14 years prior to her appointment as Assistant Provost. She came to Wake Forest as an assistant professor in the health and exercise science department in 1989.

Under her leadership, Wake Forest implemented key retention strategies that positioned the University among the nation’s most successful institutions with respect to graduating college students of color. She has worked collaboratively with faculty, administrators, staff and students to develop initiatives to broaden the curriculum, increase the number of minority faculty and staff, enhance diversity education, better prepare our students to work and lead in a global society and, in countless ways, create an inclusive and engaging campus culture.

Dr. Oakes was also the lead author of Wake Forest’s strategic plan to enhance diversity and inclusion, among the first and most expansive such university strategies when published nearly a decade ago. Many of the initiatives proposed there, including creating a LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center, have come to rich fruition under her supervision.

Beyond Wake Forest, she has also been a leader in higher education. In 2012, Diverse Issues in Higher Education nationally recognized her as one of the “25 Women Making a Difference” to foster community on college campuses. She has served as president of the North Carolina Diversity and Inclusion Partners.

An exercise physiologist by training, Dr. Oakes (’80, MA ’81) received a B.S. with honors and an M.A from Wake Forest. As a Hylton Smith Fellow, she received a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and nutrition from the University of Tennessee and was the first African American woman with a doctorate in the American College of Sports Medicine. She has also held faculty appointments at Arizona State and Penn State University.

I will oversee a national search for her replacement.

I know I speak for us all wishing Dr. Oakes the best of luck at UNLV—she will be missed across the Wake Forest community, one she has done so much to enhance!


Rogan Kersh