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Henry Odi named vice provost for academic diversity

Henry Odi '98G assumes his new role as vice provost for academic diversity on May 1.

Henry Odi ’98G, who brings more than two decades of experience at Lehigh recruiting, retaining and mentoring a more diverse faculty and student body, has been named to the newly created position of vice provost for academic diversity.

Odi, who has served as executive director of academic outreach and special projects since 1999, was selected following a national search. He assumes his new role on May 1.

“Creating the new position of vice provost for academic diversity is a step toward continued improvement of the environment on campus,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “While we recognize that we, as a community, still have work to do, filling this new role with someone of Henry Odi's caliber greatly enhances our efforts in this continued campus transformation.”

The new position, which reports to the provost, was created last year to help Lehigh enhance its efforts to transform recruitment, retention and the campus climate. In his new role, Odi will work with the university’s senior administration, the Council for Equity and Community, and others across campus to leverage their collective work to promote diversity and inclusivity for the entire campus community.

“Henry's unwavering commitment to promoting academic diversity and his impressive record of success make him an ideal choice for this new role,” says Provost Patrick V. Farrell. “In his nearly quarter of a century here at Lehigh, he's not only formed strong and productive working relationships with a wide range of campus constituencies, but he has also created and implemented many programs to further broader goals of inclusivity and diversity.”

Odi, who is on the membership committee of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, will work closely with the deans of the four colleges to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty. He also is expected to lead development of a pipeline of academic talent—both undergraduate and graduate—into Lehigh, and to serve as a collaborator and resource to the campus community to actively support diversity.

“Part of the excitement for me is that more people are going to be engaged in this, more people want to be engaged in this,” Odi says. “I’m looking forward to bringing folks to the table. If you’re a faculty member at Lehigh, or a staff member here, or an undergraduate or graduate student here, you’re talented. Lehigh brought you in because they believe you are incredibly talented and smart. So we are going to tap into those talents and intellectual capacity, because that’s what’s going to continue to advance the mission and the vision of this institution.”

Farrell thanked the search committee chaired by Helen Chan, professor and department chair of materials science and engineering, for their diligence and hard work.

“Henry's passion for all aspects of inclusiveness, coupled with his deep understanding of the Lehigh community, will be invaluable as he takes on this important leadership role for enhancing equity and community on campus,” Chan says.

An innovator and mentor

Odi’s 24 years at Lehigh have been marked by innovative and creative approaches to promoting academic diversity. He co-founded the S.T.A.R. (Students That Are Ready) Academies in 1989, a program that matches Lehigh students with Lehigh Valley students in grades 4-12 for one-on-one tutoring in math, English, science and other subjects.

He also is a leader in an ongoing program funded by the National Science Foundation to encourage black, Hispanic and female students to go into the so-called STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As part of the STEM program, Odi led efforts to design and build a 21st century space center at an Allentown middle school that teaches students the fundamentals of software programming and robotics and lets them use wireless remote control to guide robots across an extraterrestrial terrain called the “Mars Yard.”

He also assisted in the development of the highly successful CHOICES program, which encourages middle school girls to consider studying engineering or science by having them participate in fun projects.

Odi earned his Ed.D. with an emphasis on administration at Lehigh in 1998, after receiving his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Millersville University. His Lehigh career started in 1987, when he was hired as associate director of residential services, finance and administration and student affairs. He served as assistant to the provost for three years and then as assistant provost before being named founding executive director of academic outreach and special projects in the provost’s office in 1999. Odi also has been an adjunct professor in the College of Arts and Sciences since 1990.

Over the years, Odi has mentored more than 10 assistant professors to achieve tenure and promotion, and has been faculty advisor to more than 30 successful graduate students. He is a two-time winner of Lehigh’s Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, and in 2008, was the recipient of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Dedication and Commitment to Service, Equity and Community.

Most recently, he founded a new alumni affinity group called BALANCE (Black and Latino Alumni Network for Community and Equity), which aims to strengthen the relationships of black and Latino alumni with each other and the university.

Story by Jack Croft and Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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