WUSTL tabs Leah Merrifield to be special assistant for diversity initiatives

In an effort to strengthen diversity among the students, faculty and staff at Washington University in St. Louis, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton has appointed Leah Merrifield as special assistant to the chancellor for diversity initiatives.

Merrifield, director of community relations in the Office of Governmental and Community Relations, will assume her new position July 1. She will report to Wrighton.

Leah Merrifield
Leah Merrifield

“I think we need to apply new energy and creativity to our work on the campus to build a stronger faculty and staff by strengthening diversity and improving gender balance where that is an issue,” Wrighton said. “Leah Merrifield has done a wonderful job in her present position as director of community relations, and I have no doubt that she will bring much enthusiasm and wisdom to our new efforts.”

While steady progress in strengthening diversity has been made over the past few years, the recent accreditation review by the North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission concluded that the University had not done as much in this area as it had done in other important areas that have contributed to the University’s success.

Wrighton said that the initiatives will be “University-wide and will include efforts to strengthen both faculty and staff.”

Wrighton is asking that each school and major administrative area designate a person who will serve as a point person in connection with the renewed effort to strengthen diversity. Merrifield will be the coordinator of this new University-wide group.

“I am honored to have been asked by Chancellor Wrighton to lead this challenging and important effort to strengthen the University’s diversity and gender balance,” Merrifield said.

“Like many other top-tier institutions, Washington University has made some steady progress over the years in this area. With additional attention and effort, we should be able to do even more to attract and retain great individuals from diverse backgrounds to our community.”

In 2000, Merrifield was named director of community relations, serving as the University’s primary liaison to local civic associations and neighborhood organizations, be a resource for the University’s neighbors and coordinate the activities of the Washington University Neighbors’ Council.

Previously, Merrifield served as the director of M.B.A. student services in the Olin School of Business.

Before her work at the Olin School, Merrifield held various positions in community relations and program administration at a number of universities.

Merrifield earned a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master’s in higher education administration from the University of Texas.