Deba Dutta

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diversity


As of July 1, 2015, the role of chief diversity officer is being handled directly by Deba Dutta, whose new title reflects this change.

As provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity, Dutta ensures that diversity and inclusion are a priority for all areas of the university including faculty, students and staff.  He and the college deans work in tandem to coordinate campus efforts for maximum impact.

As chief diversity officer for Purdue, Dutta intends to broaden the conversation and programming about diversity at Purdue and leverage the success of the NSF-funded Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) initiative that is now housed in the Office of the Provost.

Broadened participation will include underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities and women, as well as first-generation students, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities. New programs and initiatives are in development and will be announced shortly by the Office of the Provost.

Dutta has an extensive understanding of the issues fundamental to expanding participation of populations underrepresented in higher education, and has demonstrated his ability throughout his career.

As dean of the Graduate College at Illinois, he made diversity an institutional priority and catalyzed new programs to address areas of critical need. Through a strategic reallocation, he significantly increased funding for graduate students from underrepresented populations. Under his leadership, the Illinois Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) was restructured and revamped and became one of the largest among the Big Ten institutions. The Illinois Summer Pre-doctoral Institute (SPI) that offers admitted underrepresented minority (URM) doctoral students an early start on campus for acclimatization and research initiation was also strengthened. He launched the Illinois Partners for Diversity (IPD) to bring faculty and administrators from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to campus to facilitate research partnerships and enhance and solidify the graduate education pipeline. Gradmentoring, a unique mentoring program for underrepresented students was started and has been effective in providing non-academic and “beyond the degree” mentoring. He launched the ASPIRE program which received a hugely positive response from faculty and from URM students across the nation. The program brings rising seniors for a two-day campus visit during which they meet with their chosen program faculty, current graduate students and also complete and submit their graduate applications for an early decision.

Dutta’s leadership in broadening participation catalyzed campus conversation and mobilized faculty and students to engage in this national imperative at the University of Illinois.  The transformational efforts under his leadership were recognized by the MAGS/ETS Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education for “Transforming the Illinois Graduate Education Pathway.” He also has served on the GRE and TOEFL Boards of the Educational Testing Service where he was a forceful voice for research on addressing the achievement gap of URMs in standardized tests.

As an advisor to the chancellor and provost on matters of diversity and cultural understanding, Dutta catalyzed fundamental changes in the way the University of Illinois approached issues concerning the participation of women, minorities and persons with disabilities in scientific, engineering and humanistic fields. His efforts led to the creation of EDGE—Enhancing Diversity, Guiding Excellence—a new initiative at the university. He engaged the Council of Deans and other administrators to help the institution bring focus for improving diversity on campus.

Dutta led the University of Illinois research team on the NSF-funded Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) Doctoral Initiative on Minority Attrition and Completion project. The project examined completion and attrition among underrepresented students in STEM doctoral programs. In 2013, the University of Illinois was one of 15 universities selected to receive a grant from the CGS and TIAA-CREF to develop financial education programs for graduate and undergraduate students. As project director, Dutta led the development of plans to create specialized programming for underrepresented students and postdocs, helping to prepare them to make informed financial decisions about their professional careers and personal lives.

Dutta directed the National Academy study on the lifelong learning imperative for engineering professionals. The study revealed barriers for women and minorities to engage in lifelong learning and the American Association of Engineering Societies is leading the next stage of this effort.  At the University of Michigan, Dutta led the creation of InterPro, a new academic unit for interdisciplinary professional master’s programs. As its founding director, he established strong ties with industry, focused on recruitment of URMs and saw enrollment grow past 300 students in five programs.

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