George Mason University

News at Mason

Rivera hopes to build momentum for diversity and inclusion at Mason

November 13, 2019   /   by Mary Lee Clark

Christopher Shepherd (right) and Dwala Toombs, both from Human Resources, and Millie Rivera (center) went recently to recruit faculty members at the Institute of Teaching and Mentorship Conference in Atlanta.

Milagros “Millie” Rivera thinks diversity, inclusion and well-being are three things that should never be separated, so she was pleased to see all three included in a job advertisement at George Mason University. 

Rivera,  the university’s new director of faculty diversity, inclusion and well-being, started earlier this year. She said in coming to Mason that she was excited to see that a majority of the students were from diverse backgrounds. 

“I could not be more delighted that Dr. Rivera has joined the Mason community as we seek to strengthen our efforts around the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty,” said Kimberly Eby, associate provost for faculty affairs and development. “Her experiences diversifying the faculty at two prior institutions and working with faculty across broad disciplinary backgrounds are clear advantages.”

Rivera’s main focus is improving the recruitment, promotion and retention of diverse faculty at Mason and promoting greater inclusion and well-being for all faculty. She said she also wants to focus on building community among faculty members,  especially those in underrepresented groups, so they feel supported and connected.

“You cannot really be an outstanding academic if you feel isolated or there are structural things holding you back,” said Rivera.

Rivera brings a wide range of experiences as a former faculty member, department chair, and dean in universities all over the world such as the University of Florida, Indiana University at Bloomington, the National University of Singapore, the University of Cape Town and, just before coming to Mason, the University of the Free State in South Africa. 

Everywhere she has worked she was the only Latina, and at one university, she was the only female in her department. At her most recent university, the department was completely Caucasian even though almost 70 percent of the students were black.

“Within three years, we were 42 percent faculty and staff of color; it took a lot of effort,” said Rivera. “But once the changes begin and people commit to becoming more diverse, the transformation is unstoppable.”

She continued: “The most important thing for me was not just bringing people of color to the department, but creating an environment where faculty and staff of color would be supported and feel respected and valued. Without that, retention is difficult.” 

She moved to Mason to be closer to her family in Puerto Rico. 

You can often find Rivera at her favorite spot at Mason—a table in the Johnson Center, where she meets with faculty and staff. On Mindful Tuesdays and Wednedays, she occasionally hosts meditations, which are organized by the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being