Viterbo’s welcomes first Chief Diversity Officer, Marlene De La Cruz-Guzmán


Calum Sullivan, Assistant Editor

While not all students may be familiar with the name Marlene De La Cruz-Guzmán, most are aware of Viterbo’s choice to add a much-needed position to its senior leadership team, a vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. Guzmán is the person tasked with fulfilling that role. Hired at the conclusion of a national search, Guzmán brings a new perspective to Viterbo’s leadership team. Rick Trietley cited Guzmán’s “passion, proven professional successes, and ability to build inclusive communities” as offering Viterbo “the opportunity to fully integrate and foster diversity and equity initiatives that align perfectly with our values and responsibilities as a leader in today’s global environment.”  

The Lumen sat down with Guzmán on October 15 to discuss her role at Viterbo and what she was most excited to start working on in her new position. “As with all first weeks in a new position,” Guzmán said, “it has entailed much listening, learning, and processing as I work towards defining the scope of my work, getting to know students, identifying partners across campus, and getting to know the community partners as well.” Guzmán has been hard at work since assuming her job duties on September 30, stating that she has been “enjoying learning about the wonderful work of dedicated colleagues, the interests and needs of our students, current programming models, on-going DEI work, and the academic community on campus.”  

After having served as director of the Office of Multicultural Success and Retention at Ohio University for six years, Guzmán was thrilled to choose Viterbo for the next step in her career. “I chose to continue my professional career at Viterbo for a variety of reasons, but the most important was that Viterbo’s values align with my personal and professional values. The faculty, staff, and students that I met during my interview process lived these values, and they were the colleagues and students that I wanted as I envisioned my next step. In addition, I was attracted by the strong faculty at Viterbo, their scholarship, and the dedication to students’ learning and well-being. The influence of the FSPAs is palpable on campus, and the way that these strong and faithful women have steered this university led me to want to join Viterbo. Finally, the La Crosse area is absolutely gorgeous and filled with opportunities for my spirit to be renewed by nature. It did not take me long to figure out that Viterbo is the perfect place for me.”  

Many students called for an officer in Viterbo’s senior leadership team following events from the spring of 2021, in which hate/bias incidents saw an extreme uptick on campus. Guzmán was not shy to talk about those issues and to pitch solutions. “The first step is the series of working groups and projects focused on addressing the issues that arose last spring semester,” Guzmán said, adding that she was excited to see this work already underway at Viterbo. Guzmán emphasized the need for ongoing education for everyone on campus and cited the ability of groups formed last semester to plan such trainings so students, faculty and employees of Viterbo can get the education needed to address the issues on Viterbo’s campus.  

Guzmán closed by sharing a goal for her first semester. “I hope to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion into every aspect of our work and to partner with everyone around the table to do so.” Guzmán added that making room for everyone to be seen and heard “is the overarching goal that informs all of my work.” This is certainly a valuable goal for a diversity officer, and something that should make Guzmán’s first semester at Viterbo a successful one.