Academy appoints diversity officer

R. SCOTT RAPPOLD Updated: November 10, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: November 10, 2010

The Air Force Academy has hired a Cuban-born attorney and international business executive to serve as its diversity officer, a position created last month after a cadet survey revealed ongoing religious, sexual and racial bias issues there.

Adis Maria Vila will implement the Academy’s diversity plan, work with Congress on diversity issues and promote diversity among students and faculty.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been exposed to a very globalized business and academic world and I think I can help, and I want to help prepare these young men and women for what will be an ever increasing global mission,” she said by phone Wednesday from Winter Park, Fla., where she recently completed a scholar-in-residence program at Rollins College.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould announced the position last month, after releasing a cadet survey that showed nearly half of non-Christian cadets polled said fellow students have a “low tolerance” for nonbelievers and 39 percent of women said they had experienced harassment or discrimination.

While she said all higher education institutions face these issues to some degree, the focus on science and engineering at the Academy could be diverting attention from the humanities and “regional studies,” which she hopes to change.

“I am hopeful that with the help of my colleagues at the Academy, the faculty … and the illustrious alums that have graduated from the Academy over the years, that we will be able to provide these young people with such an organizational culture that celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion,” she said. “It will be work, but of course, it’s all work.”

Along with teaching, she has served as assistant secretary of administration for the U.S. Department of Agriculture,; director for the Department of Commerce’s Office of Mexico and the Caribbean Basin; special assistant to the assistant secretary for Latin American Affairs at the State Department; and head of Florida’s Department of Administration.

She plans to move here next month.

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