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The News & Observer

NCSU Hires Col. Jose A. Picart For Top-Level Diversity Job

Barbara Barrett, Staff Writer

August 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The News & Observer Pub. Co. All rights reserved. 

RALEIGH -- N.C. State University has hired a native of Puerto Rico and a colonel in the U.S. Army as its new leader in diversity efforts.

U.S. Army Col. Jose A. Picart , 49, plans to start work in October as the vice provost for diversity and African-American affairs. This will make him one of the top academic officers at the university.

Picart is director of psychology studies at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he oversees 12 faculty members.

Picart faces major challenges in the new role. He will step into the void left a year ago when the previous vice provost, Rupert Nacoste , quit the post and criticized the university for not doing enough to promote diversity. Nacoste returned to a teaching position in psychology .

NCSU leaders have been working to recruit and retain minority faculty and to graduate minority students. Both issues have been problems in the past. Also, a recent diversity survey found that students of color feel less comfortable in the classroom than do white students and that the classroom is not seen as tolerant of gay and bisexual students.

Among Picart's first priorities will be a redesign of the African-American Cultural Center, a makeover launched by Nacoste and criticized by some who fear the center will lose its focus as a resource for black students.

Picart said he has three hires to make in the coming year: an assistant vice provost to replace Theresa Edwards , who left this summer ; a director for the cultural center to replace Iyailu Moses , who left in May; and a director for diversity programs.

Despite the hurdles, Picart said he thinks the university has made great strides in diversity and needs someone to pull everything together.

"My feeling as I talk to the staff is that N.C. State is poised and ready, I think, to emerge as a model for other universities about how we create an inclusive community in a comprehensive way," Picart said.

He interviewed this summer and said he sensed that people were eager to see someone in the post. "I saw that anxiety, that interest, as a positive," he said.

NCSU Provost James Oblinger said Picart stood out among more than 100 candidates . Oblinger said he was intrigued with Picart's background and global experiences and his ideas about promoting diversity.

"I like his attitude. He has a can-do attitude," Oblinger said. "He just has a great blend of personal and professional experience."

Picart worked on diversity efforts while at West Point, where he helped launch a diversity committee and was a collaborative leader who brought people together across divisions and ranks, said Col. George Forsythe , a professor and vice dean for education at West Point.

"Col. Picart is a guy who has a big, round table and brings a lot of people to that table," Forsythe said.

Picart was born in Puerto Rico and later lived overseas. He moved to Fayetteville when his father was stationed at Fort Bragg. Picart graduated from high school in Fayetteville and from West Point in 1975. He earned his doctorate in experimental cognitive psychology from the University of Oklahoma in 1990.

Picart's appointment and salary, which was unavailable Tuesday, is scheduled to be approved by NCSU's board of trustees in September. His predecessor earned $104,325.

Col. Jose A. Picart is a psychology director at West Point.

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