Rucker Named Asst. to the President for Equity and Diversity, Dean of Students at Southeast


Sonia Rucker, director of Institutional Equity and Diversity at Southeast Missouri State University, has been named Assistant to the President for Equity and Diversity and Dean of Students at Southeast.

The appointment was effective Oct. 1 and announced by President Carlos Vargas in his State of the University Address Oct. 5.

Rucker’s new duties as Dean of Students complement and are similar to her current responsibilities as the institution’s Title IX coordinator. She will report directly to Vargas.

The change is in line with other efforts the University has made over the past few years to enhance equity and diversity across the campus. In spring 2016, the final report and recommendations of the President’s Task Force on Diversity Education were presented to the Board of Regents and the campus community. This final report emphasized the need to continue to identify, address and engage the campus community in practices which support diversity, inclusion and equity. The final report further emphasized the importance of the University continuing to recruit and retain a compositionally diverse student body, faculty and staff, and to promote cultural competence and inclusion in all aspects of the educational experience offered to the student populations Southeast serves.

“A commitment to diversity and inclusion must be embedded throughout all aspects of the University community, and this commitment has to start at the highest level of the administrative structure,” Rucker said. “The elevation of the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity to one which reports directly to the President, along with the reorganization of my position from that of director, to Assistant to the President for Institutional Equity and Diversity, signals Southeast’s continued commitment to focusing on intentional and systemic organizational change when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Vargas and the other members of the leadership team to further develop strategies which will continue to enhance our campus climate and reflect Southeast’s commitment to inclusive excellence.”

Prior to joining Southeast in April 2015, Rucker served as a disability determination counselor with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Disability Determinations Services in Cape Girardeau. She also spent nine years at Cornell University as the dean of student’s university-wide crisis manager, associate director and assistant director of diversity and inclusion with the Johnson Graduate School of Management, program manager with the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Graduate Programs Office, and associate director of counseling and community outreach with Minority Educational Affairs.

With the move, Dr. Debbie Below will remain Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success but will shift her Dean of Students responsibilities to Rucker. These transitions will allow the Offices of Institutional Equity and Diversity, and Enrollment Management and Student Success, to be more strategic in their work and better focus on key University initiatives, including increasing the retention and graduation rates of students, Vargas said.