KINGSTON, R.I. – April 15, 2022 – URI President Marc Parlange has announced interim leadership appointments in the office of Community, Equity and Diversity. Effective April 18, 2022, Sean Edmund Rogers, the Spachman Professor of Human Resources and Labor Relations, the Executive Director of Inclusive Excellence for the College of Business, and the Director of the Charles T. Schmidt Jr. Labor Research Center, will serve as Interim Vice President of Community, Equity and Diversity (CED). He is joined in this important work by Michelle Fontes, Assistant Dean of Diversity, Retention, and Student Success Initiatives in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, who was appointed Interim Assistant Vice President of Community, Equity, and Diversity. Michelle starts in the role May 23, 2022.
“I am thankful for Sean and Michelle’s willingness to take on these newly restructured roles within CED to continue this important work for the University,” said President Parlange. “I hope you will join me in welcoming them.” Details and timeline on the search for permanent CED leadership will be forthcoming.
As interim vice president, Sean will work closely with the president and the President’s Leadership Council on all issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He will provide diversity-related vision, leadership, strategic direction and planning, and coordination to advance the University’s mission and strategic plan. Working closely with Sean, Michelle will provide leadership, organizational development, and program management related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including direct oversight of the four student centers reporting into CED and close collaboration with college-based assistant deans for diversity. Working with the deans and across departments, Sean and Michelle will help develop and execute DEI-enhancing strategic initiatives and programming for URI undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, and other stakeholders.
Prior to joining the University in 2018, Sean held faculty appointments at Cornell University, New Mexico State University, and the University of New Mexico. He holds a Ph.D. in industrial relations and human resources from Rutgers University. Prior to academia, he held corporate leadership roles in the airline and logistics industries. He was an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2000-2008, and currently serves as a Medical Service Corps (healthcare administration) officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Sean is a nationally recognized researcher in the areas of labor relations and employment discrimination and workforce diversity with more than 20 published peer-reviewed journal articles as well as a book on change management. His 2021 article on disability discrimination among Airbnb hosts won the Academy of Management Discoveries journal Best Paper of the Year Award, and his earlier work on graduate student unionization helped influence labor law changes that enabled collective bargaining among students at private universities. Sean was recently elected to serve a three-year term on the Executive Board of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, the leading academic and professional association for research on work and workplace relations.
Michelle joined the University in 2007 as a specialist and then assistant director in the Alumni Relations office. In 2012, she transitioned to a coordinator in CELS and, over the past decade, has advanced to Assistant Director of Student Diversity Initiatives and assistant dean. Prior to joining URI, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors, always gravitating toward mentorship and education. She holds both a BA in communications and an MA in Adult Education from URI. In her current role, she assists in establishing relationships within the college to enhance cultural competencies for the CELS community. She works to provide a structure of support that will help recruit and retain undergraduate and graduate students of color in CELS. She serves on the The Diversity University Council, the Women of Color Network, and the Provost’s Academic Diversity Task Force.
“As proven leaders at URI,” said President Parlange, “I am confident that Sean and Michelle will be thoughtful, engaged, and collaborative partners as we shape the University’s 10-year strategic plan and usher in this next exciting phase of growth and transformation at URI.”