Introducing Dr. Terri Jett, Our New AVP/Senior Diversity Officer

A message to the Saint Mary's Community

by Brother Thomas Jones, FSC, Interim President | January 11, 2024

I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Terri Jett will be joining Saint Mary’s in the role of Associate Vice President/Senior Diversity Officer (AVP/SDO). Dr. Jett, a Bay Area native who will be returning to her native California after a distinguished career at Butler University in Indiana, will join our campus community on April 1, 2024.

Dr. Terri Jett

The AVP/SDO position here at Saint Mary’s is one that represents the heart of the 360-year educational history and tradition established by Saint John Baptist de La Salle. I consider it foundational to our work here at Saint Mary’s, and fundamental to our character as a Lasallian Catholic institution of higher education for the 21st century. 

Dr. Jett has already expressed interest in learning more about this heritage and how she can help us all animate our core principles of faith in the presence of God, quality education, respect for all persons, inclusive community, and commitment to the poor and social justice. 

Dr. Jett brings with her an extraordinary academic background and a wealth of experience as an educator. She possesses a strong desire to continue her career in a faith-based institution with a mission to serve those who would otherwise not have access to higher education, and to strengthen belonging as a hallmark of the Saint Mary’s experience.  

At Butler, Dr. Jett serves as a Professor of Political Science/Peace and Conflict Studies. She is also a member of the Affiliate Faculty of Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as Faculty Director for the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement. For 2021–22, Dr. Jett was named a Distinguished Faculty Award recipient for her lasting contributions to Butler University.

Dr. Jett’s achievements, academic accomplishments, scholarship and publications, community involvement, and professional memberships are too vast for me to list here. I will note, however, that she was the first Black woman to earn tenure at Butler, and in 2020 she became the first Black woman to be promoted to full professor. 

Dr. Jett has embraced a wide variety of critical roles. At Butler, she has been a member of the steering committee of the Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, a Faculty Senator, and a Faculty Fellow at the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab Think Tank. She also served as Department Chair from 2007–14 and resumed the role on an interim basis during the current Chair’s sabbatical leave.

I was struck by a comment by one of her Butler colleagues: “One of the many outstanding aspects of Dr. Jett’s career has been her innovative spirit and her ability to develop undergraduate experiences that invite students into her areas of academic investigation,” wrote Terri Carney, Professor of Spanish, Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Butler. 

Although Dr. Jett will be responsible for leading, advancing, and ensuring accountability for our DEI efforts and their integration throughout our campus, we are all responsible for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are fortunate to have Dr. Jett to lead those efforts, establish benchmarks, chart our progress, measure outcomes, and evaluate institutional change. 

I would also like to express my great gratitude for the work of the search committee, and the leadership of Dr. María Luisa Ruiz throughout the process, as well as the students and other members of the SMC community who helped make this a successful search. The behind-the-scenes labor involved in our Open Forum events, as well as other aspects of the search process, go far beyond individual job descriptions, so I very much appreciate the efforts of those individuals and the work of Greenwood/Asher & Associates for their important contributions.

Search committee:

  • María Luisa Ruiz, Chair, Interim Senior Diversity Officer
  • Ameera Ibrahim, SEBA Faculty Representative
  • Rebecca Anguiano, KSOE Faculty Representative
  • José Feito, SOS Faculty Representative
  • Sunayani Bhattacharya, SOLA Faculty Representative
  • Carrie  Davis, Director, Mission and Ministry
  • Aeleah Soine, Vice Provost for Student Success
  • James Scuito, Vice President for Student Life
  • Jennifer Pigza, Director, CILSA, CCIE chair (interim)
  • Kalilah Epperson-Lee ASSMC Student Representative
  • Karin Hein, Staff & HR Support (non-voting)

María Luisa Ruiz will continue in her role as Interim Senior Diversity Officer throughout this academic year and will support the transition when Dr. Jett joins us in April. I am exceptionally grateful to her for her work. 

Please join me in thanking the search committee members and in congratulating and welcoming Dr. Terri Jett to Saint Mary’s!


Brother Thomas Jones, FSC

Interim President