For Leslie Doyle, her return to Kansas City, Missouri, represents both a move forward and a step back in time.
Doyle started April 1 as the first-ever chief inclusion officer for Rockhurst University, which is right across the street from her childhood home along Troost Avenue.
Her official role is the head of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Doyle returned to her hometown after spending 13 years on the staff of Fontbonne University in St. Louis. She most recently served as the director of service, diversity, and social justice.
A graduate of Paseo Academy, Doyle remembers playing on the Rockhurst campus as a kid. Flatland spoke with Doyle after she had been on the job at Rockhurst for less than a month.
Flatland: Let’s first talk about your homecoming. You moved away, grew in other roles around the U.S., but came back. Why?
Leslie Doyle: In college, I realized my passion for equity and inclusion work. I just love Kansas City and love this community.
Being a kid who grew up on Troost, who understood the Troost divide intimately, there’s room for more equity, inclusion, and I’m excited to be part of a solution for that. I think that it’s a blessing to be a part of the community, the community that molded and shaped who I am today. It’s a blessing to move the needle to make Kansas City more inclusive.
F: Why did it take so long for Rockhurst to hire their first diversity, equity and inclusion officer?
LD: The university was thoughtful about the decision. Around 40% of people, faculty, staff and students, participated and learned a lot from the climate survey (called “Building a Home for All”). And from that, came the need for this position.
So I’m happy that they took the time to focus on: what are the needs on campus, and how can someone in my position focus on those needs? It makes sense for them.
They could’ve jumped on the bandwagon, but they were thoughtful in the process of finding the kind of person that they needed. It all came together very well. I think that they are recognizing the cultural shifts that are happening throughout the country and in the Kansas City community. And there is a need for more inclusivity.
They are also hearkening back to the Jesuit tradition. Inclusivity is part of the mission of the university. The Jesuit tradition talks a lot about caring for the whole person, you know really wanting to care of others in our community, so (we’re) doing the work to (make it) the most inclusive institution that it can be.
F: Can you share what your days will look like in your new role?
I will be doing a lot of collaboration with other departments on campus.
The day in and day out will be crafted by me, but it will be about developing partnerships and helping, moving the needle in regards to diversity and inclusion. I’m learning.
It’s wonderful to be the inaugural person and to try to start your own course. And it’s an interesting proposition to not have a blueprint. (Laughs)
Each institution has its own culture and way of proceeding, and structures in place that can foster diversity and inclusion efforts. I want to be part of building that culture.
The opportunities are ripe for picking. I have lots to learn and many people to meet. Where do our values align? And how we can be of assistance to those out in the community?
F: What does this job mean to you?
LD: For me, it’s the next step.
My way of proceeding is to build community and consensus and to help others learn and to grow and develop, so this position is perfect for me. It’s a harness of power to draw on previous experiences and shepherd in a new opportunity for Rockhurst. It feels like coming home.
I have not lived back home for 26 years, and my father reminds me of that. When he heard that I had the opportunity to come back, he got emotional.
My grandmother passed last month, and what a blessing it was to be with my family back home. I didn’t know that it would happen. I’m so happy I can be here now.
There are just so many things you miss when you’re not home.
F: Being away for so long, why did this job in particular pique your interest?
LD: I’m telling you this was not on my radar, but God had other plans. (Laughs)
I heard about the position through my former supervisor who was an undergrad when I was here at Rockhurst. I asked for a reference from a colleague. And I hadn’t considered moving to Kansas City or coming home at all, but when I read the job description, it seemed tailor-made for me. To work on strategy, policy and procedures. It just seemed like the perfect time for me at my point in my career.
I waited until the last day because I was contemplating whether this was the right job. And when I drove past my old home on 5340 Troost, I knew that it’s where I belonged. And it’s where God was sending me.