DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > University names 2021-22 Presidential Faculty Fellows

University names 2021-22 Presidential Faculty Fellows

St. Vincent Circle
(DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
DePaul has named two long-time members of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as the Presidential Faculty Fellows for the 2021-22 academic year. Valerie Johnson, an associate professor of political science, and Jose Soltero, an associate professor of sociology, will work closely with senior leadership during a one-year term beginning in September.

“The last year has shone a bright and harsh light on the racial inequities that persist in American society," says DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban. “Our new Presidential Fellows will offer concrete ideas to assist DePaul in making our campuses more open, welcoming and supportive for students, faculty and staff of color."

Entering its third year, the Presidential Faculty Fellowship program has included initiatives focused on educating incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students, supporting working parents, and narrating the stories of diverse communities through video. Fellows bring substantive understanding and intellectual rigor to discussions around DePaul's strategic diversity, equity and inclusion priorities through research and other activities.

Valerie Johnson

Valerie Johnson

“Dr. Johnson is deeply committed to DEI and demonstrates her passion for racial justice in her research and service to DePaul," says Liz Ortiz, vice president for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity. “She is a strong advocate and champion on social justice issues and equity. She will bring a depth of knowledge and understanding to the role."

Johnson seeks to consolidate the varied efforts from colleges and units into a cohesive university-wide plan during her fellowship.

“DEI is everywhere and nowhere," she says. “We need a central plan born of a common vision and commitment."

The time to do it is now, she believes.

“This is an inflection point in our nation's history," Johnson says. “The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have placed race front and center in the American conscious, as it was in the 1960s. I believe the university has an important part to play in this historical moment. I believe DePaul can become a model for DEI nationwide."

Johnson's goal is to add clarity to DePaul's DEI efforts and “ensure the entire university—faculty, staff, and students—fully understand what we mean when we say we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion."

Jose Soltero

Jose Soltero

“Dr. Soltero's scholarship with the Latinx and immigrant communities will assist DePaul as we explore becoming a Hispanic Serving In​stitution," Ortiz says. “His expertise in the Latinx community will be invaluable as the university works to identify barriers to student retention and graduation."

Soltero plans to engage in research and analysis using surveys, individual interviews, and focus groups of students, alumni and potential students to increase Latinx enrollment, retention and graduation rates.

He supports DePaul's exploration into becoming an HSI because it would prompt DePaul “to innovate and expand support services and culturally responsive curricular practices that would benefit not just Latinx students, but also African American, Asian, Asian American, and other groups of students."

“We are well-positioned to continue to attract Latinx students, not only because the majority are of the Catholic faith, but also because of our long tradition of attracting first-generation college students, many who come from immigrant families," Soltero notes.