Q&A with Malika Carter, Worcester’s chief diversity officer

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Malika Carter, Ph.D., was named the city’s first chief diversity officer on Jan. 15.

In announcing her hiring City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. wrote: “The main duties of the position will include developing and monitoring, recruiting, hiring, training, promoting and retaining strategies to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups who work and volunteer for the city.

“Dr. Carter will also oversee the development and implementation of the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity and Inclusion Plan and making sure that the city is in compliance with all federal, state and local Equal Employment Opportunity laws.”

The trail that led her to Worcester was steep.

Malika Carter, Worcester chief diversity officer

Mark Henderson / Worcester Sun

Malika Carter, Worcester chief diversity officer

Carter, who says she grew up “low socio-economic-statused” person, at first eschewed four-year colleges for Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, where her parents went back to school at ages 45 and 46.

She got her associate’s degree in stenography so she could become a court reporter and earn money to continue her education at Cleveland State University.

The punitive nature of the law, she said, made her realize she wanted to make education her career. She taught science, reading and language arts in grades 4-9 in Cleveland but was drawn to higher education.

She earned a master’s in higher education and student affairs administration at the University of Vermont, working full time in the process.

In 2005, Carter moved on to North Dakota State University, where she was assistant director of multicultural programs while continuing her education. In 2011 she became director of multicultural student services at the University of North Dakota. In 2014 she earned her Ph.D. from North Dakota State.

Carter sat down with the Sun for her first extended one-on-one interview since coming to Worcester in February.

Quotable Carter: Select thoughts from the city’s diversity czar

  • “Institutions were not built for under-represented people. They were built for power, to keep the power in and keep the powerless out.”
  • “Imagine if the tables were turned and those people who are doing a lot with a little were at the top of the economic food chain. Imagine how [much] better our institutions would be because they would be able to, as my grandmother says, ‘Make a dollar hollar.’ “
  • “The hardest job I had to learn in doing this work is to be tolerant of the intolerant.”
  • “The city’s workforce is not as diverse as it could be.”

She talked about what prepared her for a city the size of Worcester, the city’s hiring practices, last summer’s dialogues on race, a recent incident involving a member of the city manager’s cabinet, the role of media, and difference between threats and free speech.

What was it that best prepared you for a city the size of Worcester?

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