Abington names first cabinet-level director of diversity, equity, inclusion

Abington director of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence

Boni Wozolek, assistant professor of education, is the first cabinet-level director of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence at Penn State Abington. She is charged with enhancing an equitable environment for faculty and staff and bridging the academic and student experience. 

Credit: Zack Gething

ABINGTON, Pa. — Chancellor Margo DelliCarpini announced the appointment of Boni Wozolek, assistant professor of education, as Penn State Abington’s first cabinet-level director of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence.

This new position at Abington, the most diverse campus in the Penn State ecosystem, will focus on enhancing an equitable environment for faculty and staff; collaborating with Student Affairs and its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to bridge the academic and student experience; and complementing existing efforts. 

“The incredible breadth and depth of Boni Wozolek’s work, which considers questions of social justice, qualitative research, and teaching practices that focus on the examination of race, sexual orientations, and gender identities across educational contexts, makes her uniquely qualified for this post. She clearly recognizes that innovation and creativity become possible when we leverage the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” DelliCarpini said. 

“I look forward to supporting her as we foster an even more diverse and inclusive culture at Penn State Abington,” she continued. 

Wozolek, who arrived at Abington in 2019, has been engaged in DEI work in her personal and professional lives for many years.

“I’ve been involved in DEI on the educational and programmatic levels and now on the cabinet level. I’ve also done this work in professional organizations that I’m a part of and in every aspect of my life from my personal identity to lots of avenues across campus,” she said. 

A guideline for her work is the campus strategic plan as she examines existing structures on campus and aligns them with Abington’s Center for Intercultural Leadership and Communication, the student-centered ODEI, and other initiatives.  

"My first goal, and one of the most significant things I can do, is to engage in deep listening. I need to consider what it means to listen deeply to people and their experiences and to be inclusive and respond with care,” she said. 

“The next steps will be processing responses and designing programs that will resonate with faculty and how we see Abington over the next five to 10 years. We need to hear where we’re at, envision where we can be, and what we can become,” she said. 

Among the reasons Wozolek, who begins her new duties this month, was attracted to the position is the impact she can have on the future. 

“I want to leave things better for the next generation of scholars and people in general. I want to work toward more equity and access, and I want to keep moving the world forward,” she said. 

Wozolek is excited at the prospect of working closely with campus leaders as a member of DelliCarpini’s Chancellor’s Cabinet. 

“What I appreciate about Margo’s leadership is that she is open to having conversations. She’s not authoritative, and it’s reflected in the administrative community she has built here. I look forward to looking and thinking with them,” she said. 

As DEI director, Wozolek retains her full-time faculty status while collaborating on developing and communicating a shared vision that supports, strengthens, and expands DEI initiatives related to faculty development, culturally relevant and equitable pedagogical practices, and curriculum.    

Additionally, she will work across units to engage in a needs analysis to identify and develop initiatives and structures aligned with the strategic plan and DEI goals that contribute to Abington’s overarching goals.    

I want to leave things better for the next generation of scholars and people in general. ... I want to keep moving the world forward.

—Boni Wozolek , director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence

Wozolek’s personal experiences inform her to DEI work. She identifies as a queer woman of color with a disability who grew up in two overwhelmingly white areas where her parents were one of the few interracial couples.   

“The confluence of those identities has pushed me into really wanting to think more deeply. How do we interrupt socio-cultural and political values that allow these norms to continue to happen?” she said. 

She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Ohio’s Kent State University and embarked on a decade-long career teaching world language and starting gender and sexuality alliances at the high schools where she worked. 

Wozolek has been recognized by national and international professional organizations, supporting her reputation as an emerging expert while also serving in various editorial capacities for scholary journals in her field. 

She is a prolific author of articles and books, publishing solo works and collaborating with other scholars, and often supporting up-and-coming Philadelphia artists by featuring their work on the book covers.

Her latest book, set to appear in early 2023, is titled "Educational Necropolitics: A Sonic Ethnography of Everyday Racisms in U.S. Schools" (Routledge). "Letters to the Field," an edited book project that is next in the queue, offers advice to graduate students and new faculty from senior scholars. In an early-stage project, Wozolek is co-editing a book that explores Black joy with Theodorea Regina Berry, the vice provost and dean of the University of Central Florida.  

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 24 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.