An Advocate and a Trusted Adviser: Caroline Laguerre-Brown to Depart GW

After eight years with the university, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement will end her tenure July 1.

June 6, 2024

Caroline Laguerre-Brown

Caroline Laguerre-Brown says she has valued the relationships she's formed at GW.

As vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement at George Washington University, Caroline Laguerre-Brown saw her role not just as guiding GW’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs and procedures—but as a sounding board, an advocate and a trusted adviser.

Students, faculty and staff who knocked on her office door would often walk away not only with a solution to a problem they were facing—but also with a story about values and community.

Laguerre-Brown, who shared in April her plans to step down this summer, said she’s always valued the relationships she’s formed at GW—and, as she prepares to leave the university, said it’s those intimate connections that she said she will miss the most.

“For me, being an administrator in higher ed is a front-row seat to the evolution that happens during a young person’s college years,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to offer advice or serve as a coach when someone needs encouragement. I learned as much as I offered in these moments, and I am grateful for each one.”

Since joining GW in August 2016, Laguerre-Brown worked to open doors and facilitate opportunities for GW’s diverse population of students. While directing the university’s DEI efforts, she oversaw the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, Disability Support Services, the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Title IX Office.

Making connections

As a first-generation college student herself, Laguerre-Brown said her trajectory was shaped by the kindness of administrators who took an interest in her academic journey. Passing that gift forward and helping students facing adversity navigate complex institutional frameworks, she said, were among her most gratifying tasks—whether she was consoling a student in a moment of crisis or acting as a cheerleader to bolster their confidence.

Laguerre-Brown said she was also privileged to work with what she called “the finest staff,” including a senior leadership team whose DEI dedication inspired her throughout her tenure. Indeed, Jordan Shelby West, who was hired by GW in 2018 and now serves as associate vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, said Laguerre-Brown offered encouragement and guidance that let staff know they were valued members of the GW community.

“During our six academic years together, Caroline has cared for me during hard times—personally and otherwise—seen me as a whole person and affirmed me in so many ways,” West said. “Caroline has taught me and challenged me to grow in ways that I’ll carry with me forever.”

Likewise, Laguerre-Brown said she treasured her relationships with faculty, whom she called “thoughtful and deeply engaged” when she asked them to consider weighty topics like preventing harassment and discrimination and conducting fair and inclusive recruitment.

Reflecting on the hundreds of sessions that she led on unconscious bias and faculty diversity, Laguerre-Brown said GW faculty were always curious and committed to advancing DEI. She remembers often being moved when a faculty member told her that they were motivated by those sessions to change their search practices, for example, and were now enjoying the benefits of more diverse candidate pools.

“I have learned so much from Caroline over the years,” said John Philbeck, vice dean of faculty affairs and professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “Her warm and compassionate leadership has been a great source of inspiration. We will continue to feel her influence many years into the future.”

A record of success

Laguerre-Brown departs GW with a long list of accomplishments.

In 2018, her office implemented a comprehensive new Title IX policy, putting in place an inclusive review process for issues including sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, intimate partner violence, stalking and retaliation. In 2019, GW also revised its Equal Opportunity, Nondiscrimination, Anti-Harassment and Non-Retaliation Policy to better articulate protection against all forms of discrimination and harassment.

Laguerre-Brown oversaw the expansion of GW’s annual Diversity Summit and facilitated the university’s “Race in America” speaker series, which kicked off in 2018 with scholar Ibram X. Kendi. Speakers have since included 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, activist Angela Davis and groundbreaking scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw.

“GW has seen significant enhancements in its DEI programming and processes during Caroline’s tenure, which have strengthened our community and improved the experience of all our students, faculty and staff,” Provost Christopher Alan Bracey said. “She has been a strong leader and invaluable member of the provost senior leadership team, and she will be missed.”

Among ODECE’s proudest achievements during Laguerre-Brown’s tenure is GW’s receipt of the Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification in 2020. This classification came as a result of the leadership of Assistant Vice Provost and Nashman Center Executive Director Amy Cohen and many campus partners. The classification “demonstrates that service and civic engagement are part of GW’s DNA,” Laguerre-Brown said.

“Caroline has been a critical leader and passionate champion for diversity, equity and inclusion at GW,” said President Ellen M. Granberg. "Throughout her tenure, she has done outstanding and important work to foster a more welcoming and inclusive community for all. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her and wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors."

After leaving GW, Laguerre-Brown looks forward to continuing her equity work through a range of avenues. In addition to serving as a higher education consultant and educator through her company, Designing Equity, LLC, she serves as vice chair of the board of directors for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and will continue as a member of numerous equity organizations and associations.

In short: She’ll remain a leader in the equity space.

"Reflecting on my many years of professional experience, the knowledge I've gained, and the personal growth I've achieved, I am excited about exploring new ways to make a meaningful impact in the future,” she said.

Next steps for ODECE

While GW works to identify a vice provost via a forthcoming national search, units within the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement will report directly to the provost, with West continuing to help lead diversity and inclusion efforts at GW. Plans are also underway to hire an external consultant to provide support for the Title IX Office and the Disability Support Services office.

Additionally, GW continues to prioritize filling and enhancing other roles in ODECE, including multiple roles in the Multicultural Student Services Center that will double the center’s number of full-time staff. Searches are underway for an MSSC director, a gender and sexuality program coordinator with a focus on the LGBTQIA+ community, a race, ethnicity and culture program coordinator and an administrative assistant.