The Interview USA
New York University
Senior Vice President of Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation

Lisa Coleman

Classrooms can become crucibles of innovation. Our aim in Higher Education (HE) should be to create environments where students share and learn from the diverse perspectives of others – this is how we enable dynamic collaboration and drive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) progress.

Chris Mansfield, our Client Services Lead, sat down with Lisa Coleman, Senior Vice President of Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation at New York University (NYU), to discuss how they approach DEI across their global HE network.

Lisa's Journey

Chris: Let's start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution. 

My name is Lisa Coleman; I’ve served as the Senior Vice President of Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation at NYU for seven years. NYU has campus locations globally, including New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. With a student body of over 60,000 students, I can’t do this work alone. I lead a wonderful team responsible for global diversification, innovation, and research efforts, and initiatives related to teaching and pedagogy.

Chris: What drew you to work in DEI?

My journey in HE began before DEI terminology and diversity and inclusion officers existed. I started my career in the IT world; my mother was a computer scientist. I see parallels between the tech revolution and the DEI movement; both fields have expanded significantly over time. Additionally, my experience as a teaching assistant for differently-abled students sparked my curiosity about diversity and equity – I found myself drawn to seeking answers in this evolving field.

Chris: What have you found most effective in helping students to engage in respectful dialogue and navigate personal differences?

In a classroom environment, there are always diverse perspectives. As an educator, you want to focus on two key areas: how to support students in acknowledging and listening to each other and introduce new perspectives that students may not otherwise be exposed to. In an article I wrote, I said to create sites of belonging there must be room for debate and dissension without obliteration and annihilation. We need to create spaces where we can debate ideas without personal attack – to do this, we need our students to see the value of diversity and demonstrate empathy and active listening.

Chris: How do you approach driving engagement with DEI initiatives?

One way to approach this is by considering the inequities that exist across the breadth and depth of DEI and their impacts on different communities. We don’t want to operate in silos; we need to welcome all people into these conversations. We also need to consider the impact of context. DEI looks different in different places; I can’t talk about DEI in Abu Dhabi like I would in Shanghai. If we approach DEI with a contextual understanding, we can improve engagement and translate what we learn to benefit the broader communities.

Chris: What have you found most effective in engaging time-poor students? 

The learning context has changed, and we need to be progressive in how we adapt. When we consider how to use technology, such as ChatGPT and social media, we can reach students where they are most engaged. We’ve experimented with delivering bite-sized pieces of content on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc., and seen positive impacts on student engagement. And as often as possible we collaborate with students to get their input on how we can work better together. 

Chris: How do you support staff in being open to new ideas and approaches to improving student engagement?

We’re intentional about exposing staff to the breadth of our student body; we do this through student panels and collaboration with student leaders and recent alums. Educators and HE staff want success for their students; hearing from them directly helps them to understand who they are and what they need. We also try to build a culture of psychological safety where people can talk openly; and we create sites of co-creation with students, faculty, staff, and alumni; this work is critical to engaging and creating conversations around new ideas and approaches to how we work.

Chris: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across the course of your career?

We are not perfect. When we can be accountable for our imperfections, we see the learning and growth opportunities they offer us. Acknowledging our imperfections also helps us develop compassion, empathy, grace, and forgiveness for ourselves and others. Bringing this approach coupled with community innovations and design thinking to my work enables productive collaboration to address the global challenges we all face.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

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