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Leading diverse excellence

Conversations with Leaders: Carl Hampton

Carl Hampton - edited

When Carl Hampton, now Governors State University’s (GSU) Chief Diversity Officer, first learned about an opening for the newly created position in 2021, he said it felt like “a calling." That's because Hampton, who now works with faculty, staff and students campus-wide to advise on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), has always had a passion for making sure everyone has an opportunity to reach their maximum potential.

In his office the walls are adorned with framed academic degrees and distinguished honors.  As he speaks about his DEI plans, it is clear that his desire for Jaguars is that they have the opportunity to reach any goal they set for themselves.

Hampton seems to have a quiet demeanor when you first meet him, but his chosen field of study and work in diversity, equity, and inclusion speaks volumes about his passion for inclusion and excellence. He currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Stanford University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and has completed 50 % of his Ph.D. coursework in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These accomplishments did not come without a struggle, and now his life’s work is all about clearing a path for others that would follow in his footsteps.

In July 2021, Hampton — a brilliant thinker and strategist — put his passion to work for Jaguars, striving to cultivate a greater sense of belonging and inclusion among those who call Governors State home. He said the calling began with two women who helped him tap his own potential —his mother and aunt, both of whom earned master’s degrees from GSU.

“Governors State has always been in my family, and I see the university as being critical to the future of the Chicago Southland and State of Illinois,” said Hampton, a licensed attorney with a background working in DEI in government and higher education. “I thought the role was an opportunity to lead inclusive excellence at a university that historically serves underrepresented faculty, staff, students, and region.

One defining moment that sparked his passion was the 1992 acquittal of the white Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King, an African American motorist. The savage beating was caught on camera by a passerby and video was broadcast across the world. Still, the officers were not held accountable, an irony not lost on a young Hampton,  who was at the time studying for his PoliSci degree a few hundred miles from scene of  the beating.  

 “This catalyzed my passion for social justice and illustrated  a need for me to be active in initiatives that increased access for individuals of historically marginalized backgrounds like Rodney King."

After Stanford and law school, Hampton stayed in Wisconsin and served as Senior Diversity & Inclusion Officer with the University of Wisconsin System, where he worked on collaborative projects that helped increase graduation rates among students of color, along with the percentages of faculty and staff members of color.

He hit the ground running at Governors State proposed the framework of a DEI institutional plan and then identifying speakers to promote its goals.

In January, Hampton moderated a day-long conference where nationally acclaimed DEI leader Damon Williams, Ph.D. inspired the campus community by offering strategies for GSU to enhance a sense of belonging for everyone.

Hampton smiles when he reflects on Dr. Williams’ presentation, part of a distinguished speaker series to promote his proposed DEI Institutional Plan, One GSU.

“It was an impactful way to start the momentum for One GSU, which strives to increase belonging among faculty, employees, and students … Dr. Williams gave us the needed tools to move this important work in an impactful direction,” Hampton said.

To continue that effort, GSU will host a March 3, 2022 event with a keynote presentation from Mikki Kendall, a national author and cultural critic on gender studies. Kendall’s presentation will kick off Women’s History Month in a presentation Hampton said will help strengthen the campus community by focusing on that which unifies Jaguars and respects distinct identities.

Through his career experiences and philosophy, Hampton realizes that boosting DEI in higher education involves faculty, staff and students who are BIPOC, first-generation college students, those with documented disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and individuals in the Jaguar family who strive for inclusive excellence.  “Only through increasing a sense of belonging will all members of our campus community be inspired to thrive on campus and access their maximum potential,” Hampton said.

“My goal is to foster a campus climate where discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation aren't tolerated," he said. “That means working with Jaguar family members to come up with pathways to achieving success. I'm looking forward to that."