In a press release last week, nonprofit informational technology (IT) association EDUCAUSE named Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Michael Cato its 2021 Diversity, Education, and Inclusion (DEI) Award recipient. EDUCAUSE praised Cato for his exceptional leadership skills and outstanding contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Bowdoin and beyond.
Cato has only been at the College since March of 2018. Still, this announcement came as no surprise to his past and present colleagues.
“He’s been doing this work [since] long before he arrived at Bowdoin,” former Senior Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity Michael Reed said. Cato has contributed to DEI efforts throughout higher education including at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he worked in IT for a program dedicated to science educators of color long before such initiatives were widespread.
Adding to the magnitude of his achievement, Senior Vice President for Institutional Research, Analytics, and Consulting Christina Finneran stressed the importance of EDUCAUSE as an organization.
“It’s the premier professional organization for people who are in [IT] within higher ed[ucation],” Finneran explained.
The third ever recipient of the annual award, Cato is the first from a private institution to receive it.
Cato stressed the importance of creating teams that incorporate DEI practices into academia. As he pointed out, only four percent of IT professionals in higher education are African American.
The current IT department at Bowdoin is, in Cato’s words, “radically different” from when he started at the College. The department was the first at Bowdoin to participate in training workshops on recruitment efforts and other means to support diversity.
“Cato was one of the first people to really take advantage of some of the workshops we were offering for hiring and recruiting a diverse workforce,” Reed said. “That was one of his priorities.”
While his award is a personal achievement, Cato emphasized that he is the proudest of his team and its efforts. He highlighted the importance of intentionality and embracing a willingness to change in pursuing DEI work.
“The thing that’s changed is deliberateness,” Reed said. “This work doesn’t get done unless people are paying attention.”