SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly has named Paulette Granberry Russell — current president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and director of Michigan State University’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives since 1998 — as its new vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Paulette Granberry Russell scaled
Paulette Cranberry Russell

Granberry Russell will begin her new role at Cal Poly on Aug. 31 and will oversee the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI), which leads the university’s efforts to build diversity and promote inclusion throughout the campus community and aligns universitywide efforts in order to achieve inclusive excellence. OUDI is the epicenter of the university’s efforts to continue to improve its campus climate and attract a more diverse student body and workforce.

“I am very pleased to bring a professional with Paulette’s expertise and experience to our university,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “Diversity, equity and inclusion make up a key component of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing experience for our students. 

“Paulette understands how crucial it is to student success that we provide a welcoming and just learning environment with diversity and inclusion ingrained into all aspects of our curriculum and programming. I know she is the right person to lead our university’s efforts toward those goals.”


Granberry Russell has served as Michigan State University’s chief diversity officer since 1998, providing active oversight, coordination and assessment of the campus’s programs and policies related to diversity, equity, access and inclusion. 

She has provided strategic counsel to the university’s academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment and admissions, and other campus units on how to attract and retain a more diverse student body and workforce. She also has coordinated and overseen diversity training initiatives; strengthened campus connections to external diverse communities; and promoted fundraising efforts to support innovative diversity, equity and inclusion programming. Granberry Russell has also provided leadership in support of MSU’s DEI strategic planning efforts and reopening campus initiatives to ensure inclusive guidelines and protocols for return to campus.

In addition, Granberry Russell in March was elected president of NADOHE — becoming the first woman to serve as president for the group, which includes more than 300 two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities and represents about 1,000 senior campus diversity officers and professionals across the U.S. The organization supports diversity and inclusion efforts in higher education through research, sharing of best practices, professional development, networking, and informing and influencing national and local policy around diversity, equity and inclusion.

“A desire to improve and a willingness to do the hard work are necessary in order to make progress on diversity, equity and inclusion — and I see both at Cal Poly,” said Granberry Russell. “I am thrilled to join a university that is making tangible strides — and that knows it still has a tremendous amount of work still to do. I am excited to see where we can go when we keep working together as a community.”

Prior to her work at MSU, Granberry Russell worked as a labor relations specialist with the Michigan Office of the State Employer and Michigan State Employees Association.

Granberry Russell earned a bachelor’s degree in political science/public administration from Michigan State University and her juris doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

She is a licensed attorney in the state of Michigan and a sought-after speaker. She considers her children, Ronnie and Kat, her greatest accomplishment and said they inspire her every day to be her best self. 

Granberry Russell succeeds Jozi De Leon, who retires retired at the end of June after serving as Cal Poly’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion. At the time De Leon joined the university, in July of 2017, her position was elevated to the President’s Cabinet and the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion was established.

Cal Poly recruited Granberry Russell as an emergency hire, to maintain momentum and continuity of leadership within OUDI and the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“The vice president for diversity and inclusion is a critical leadership role in our university community — particularly in this moment in history when racial justice and equality are at the forefront of our national discussion,” Armstrong said. “We must ensure that these efforts continue to be a top priority for our university, and I am confident that Paulette’s professional experience will provide us with the necessary vision and direction.”

Denise Isom, chair of Cal Poly’s Ethnic Studies Department, will lead OUDI on an interim basis through August. Isom has been with Cal Poly since 2008 and has led the Ethnic Studies Department for the past seven years. She has served as a past interim associate director of OUDI; helped launch several campus diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives; and won several awards for her efforts to help create a more just, equitable and diverse Cal Poly campus, including the Cal Poly Cross Cultural Centers’ MLK Legacy Award earlier this year.