RWU Law names new diversity head

After three months of searching, the RWU School of Law has decided on a new Director of Diversity and Outreach. Ralph Tavares will take over this position on Oct. 31. 

Tavares will be the fourth person to take this position in the school’s history. The previous director, Deborah Johnson, left this year to take a faculty position at the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. 

Tavares has been the director of multicultural student success and assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Providence College for the past five years. Before that, he spent over a decade at Salve Regina University as an associate director of admissions and multicultural education.

Tavares said the work the law school has done, along with its leadership, drew him to the job.

“It is very clear that there is momentum, there is excitement for where the law school is,” Tavares said. “The fact that there is a strategic plan for diversity and there is actually action to go along with that is exciting.”

While Tavares believes the law school is on a good path, he said there are challenges it still faces. 

“I need to go on a major listening tour before anything happens,” Tavares said. 

He also said he plans to work with everyone in the community before big changes happen.  

“The work I have always done is one of collaboration. It has been one of teamwork and partnerships and communication.”

Tavares said he is most excited to work one on one with students. 

“The work that you want to see Is the work that you put into the students,” Tavares said. 

“I love, love working with and mentoring students to their best selves. Being able to [work] with future lawmakers, attorneys, judges and those students, being able to implement change from that perspective, seems to be where my north star is right now.” 

“In Ralph Tavares we found an experienced diversity and inclusion professional with almost 20 years of experience in higher education,” said RWU Law School Dean Michael Yelnosky in a release from the law school. “He brings a wealth of knowledge to RWU Law, as well as personal characteristics that we are confident will make him successful with law students.” 

According to Yelnosky, the law school has made great strides in recent years regarding student diversity. 

“We have actively recruited students from all backgrounds to the law school. Right now, approximately 25% of our students identify as students of color.  And 13% of the students in our most recently admitted class identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

Tavares said he is ready to accept the challenges of the job and prepared to carry out the legacy of his predecessors. 

“I know that Deborah Johnson has done some great work,” he said. “I want to carry whatever torch that she lit.”