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Diversity, equity, inclusion focus of new hires

Last updated August 17, 2022

By Clinton Colmenares, Director of News and Media Strategy

Furman University has made several personnel moves in recent months aimed at supporting and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion among students, faculty and staff.

“Of course, DEI is everyone’s responsibility,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “It is incumbent upon each of us to create an environment of belonging for everyone – students, faculty and staff. Our values call us to advocate respect for all people and welcome perspectives from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, and to promote diversity and strive for equity.”

The recent promotions and hires include:

  • Cynthia King, professor of communication studies, is the inaugural associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence in Academic Affairs, as of July 1. King is a member of the Academic Leadership Team and reports to the dean of faculty. She works with individuals and groups on campus, including the Presidential Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other DEI leaders, to name, acknowledge and challenge the legacies of systemic inequities and other biases. Her position is crucial to increasing the university’s recruitment, retention and promotion of faculty and Academic Affairs staff from underrepresented groups, and to create an environment of inclusion, dialogue, challenge and growth.


  • Franklin Ellis will join Student Life on Aug. 22 as associate dean and director of the Center for Inclusive Communities. Ellis comes to Furman from Vanderbilt University, where he served as the Director for Intercultural Education and Outreach and, before that, as the director of inclusive excellence in the provost’s office. Ellis will devise new ways to foster belonging among historically underrepresented students. Ellis is a member of the Student Life Leadership Team and reports directly to the vice president for Student Life.


  • Jocelyn Boulware Bruce ’17 joined Furman last fall as assistant director of the Center for Inclusive Communities. Boulware Bruce has a specialty in social justice education and is the staff co-director (with faculty co-director Claire Whitlinger, associate professor of Sociology) of the university’s Intergroup Dialogue Program. Boulware Bruce helps our students increase their skills for communicating across differences, particularly when those differences are rooted in social identity, such as race, sexuality and faith.


  • Alex Akulli also joined the Center for Inclusive Communities in July as the associate director for International Student Support and Engagement, helping recruit international students and helping them navigate new surroundings when they arrive. He also serves as the university’s primary designated school official for visa oversight and support. Akulli previously served the University of South Carolina Upstate as the director of the Center for International Studies and the University of Lynchburg as the director of the Center for Global Education.


  • Lustra Miller is the new as assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion recruitment in Admissions and Financial Aid. Miller spent seven years in public arts education. She will play an integral role in developing and overseeing inclusive recruiting strategies that work to meet the goals outlined in the university’s strategic diversity plan for historically underrepresented and underserved students.

Each of these positions and others around campus will work closely with the university’s chief diversity officer. Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Beth Pontari is leading the national search for this position, which will be elevated to a vice president.

“I have high expectations for the administrators and staff members in these important roles, and great faith that they will succeed in helping us make Furman the most equitable and inclusive university we can be,” Davis said.

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Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy