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Michael Benitez Jr., Ph.D.

Vice President for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Formal portrait of Michael Benitez.


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Full-Time Staff

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Michael Benitez, Ph.D., recently joined MSU Denver in September as vice president for Diversity and Inclusion. Over the past two decades, Benitez has served higher education in different capacities, including academic and student affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; and teaching. He is a nationally acclaimed scholar practitioner in higher education and a highly sought speaker and workshop leader at universities, colleges and conferences nationwide.

His role includes providing leadership over the development, implementation and assessment of diversity strategic goals and planning, institutional efforts and programming aimed at cultivating and sustaining an equitable and inclusive campus climate, and ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion are prominent components in the decision-making and organizational culture that drives inclusive excellence.

Benitez has authored book chapters and articles on student identity, hip-hop culture, cultural centers, faculty development, cultural and ethnic studies, and campus climate assessment. He has been featured in educational documentaries such as “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity” (2012) and on talk shows such as “Hard Knock Radio” and “Speak Out With Tim Wise.” He is co-editor of the anthology “Crash Course: Reflections on the Film ‘Crash’ for Critical Dialogues About Race, Power and Privilege” (2007). His most recent works on supporting faculty of color and creating campus-community participatory frameworks for difficult conversations and institutional action can be found in AACU’s “Liberal Education” (2017) and “New Directions in Institutional Research” (2017).

Prior to joining MSU Denver, Benitez served as chief diversity officer/dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Puget Sound, director of Intercultural Leadership and Engagement at Lafayette College, director of Diversity Initiatives at Dickinson College and CAMP retention and academic counselor at Penn State University. He has helped create, shape and lead innovate equity and inclusion-based strategies, programs and practices to address some of higher education’s more pressing campus-climate issues and challenges. Such programs include “Inclusive Teaching Conversations,” the “Diversity Monologues,” the campus-climate community participatory frameworks and the NW5C cross-institutional consortium for supporting faculty of color.

Benitez completed his B.S. and M.Ed. at Pennsylvania State University, where he gained interest in pursuing doctoral studies as a McNair Scholar. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy from Iowa State University’s School of Education and has been recognized with several leadership and scholarly awards throughout his career.

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