Fort Lewis College has hired Heather Shotton as its new vice president for Diversity Affairs.
Shotton, who previously worked for the University of Oklahoma as chairwoman of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the director of Indigenous Educational Initiatives, replaces LeManuel “Lee” Bitsóí, who left FLC for a new role at Brandeis University.
Shotton said she was inspired to take on diversity-related issues in academia by mentors she had while earning her undergraduate degree.
“I was honestly inspired, when I was in college myself as an Indigenous student,” she said. “I had two mentors, who were Indigenous faculty, who really sparked my passion for education and research.”
Shotton is a citizen of the Wichita & Affiliated Tribes and is a Kiowa and Cheyenne descendant.
She said she has both a curiosity and desire to understand the experiences of Indigenous students in college. Shotton said that is something she can bring to FLC, where almost half the student population is Native American.
She looks forward to being involved with the work FLC has done with reconciliation considering the school’s history of being a former Native American boarding school.
“It’s really critical work and work that I look forward to engaging with when I’m on campus.” she said. “More broadly, I’m really excited about the commitment of Fort Lewis to creating a space for students of diverse backgrounds and thinking through the transformative capacity of higher education.”
Coming from another college, Shotton said her new position will require a lot of listening to better understand specific issues facing FLC.
“I think Fort Lewis has amazing staff, faculty and students already, and I see my role as someone who can come in and work from a position of shared leadership to really help think about the possibilities for Fort Lewis from curriculum and broader inclusivity to thinking about the specific communities that they serve,” she said.
Shared leadership is a concept Shotton believes in. It is an approach of expanding the number of people involved in a decision-making process as it relates to academics and a school’s organization.
There were many factors that made FLC an appealing choice for Shotton. As someone who worked in Indigenous education her entire career, she finds the college’s history interesting and is familiar with that history.
She commends FLC’s dedication to grow around diversity, equity and inclusion. Shotton is impressed by the intentional effort the school has made to be in partnership with tribal nations in the Four Corners.
“Both the stated and demonstrated commitment to DEI is all attractive to me,” she said. “There’s wonderful leadership at Fort Lewis and more importantly there are amazing students and I am so excited about working with the students that make up this great institution.”