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Diversity Inclusion and Belonging updates positions

October 11, 2021

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) at UW-River Falls has had a change in leadership. 

Martin Olague, who was the director of DIB since 2016, took a position at St. Olaf college in Northfield, Minnesota, according to Jamie Zamjahn, the assistant chancellor for student success. 

“I know when the opportunity for Martin came up to go back to his Alma mater and a place that he loves, that's a hard thing to pass up,” said Zamjahn. “I think he was looking forward to it, and especially when it came from a place that's special to him.”

The position of director is vacant for now. Nathan Riel-Elness, the gender and sexuality outreach coordinator, has worked with Olague at DIB for over four years. Riel-Elness said with the new vacancy, DIB is updating what the best structure for the office is in terms of programming and initiatives, as well as other support systems that may be in place in the future.

“There's a number of challenges that come with a transition like this, but I think it's a great opportunity for him. I'm excited for him and I think it gives us an opportunity to reevaluate some things here in the office,” said Riel-Elness. 

Zamjahn is now overseeing the bias incident response team (BIRT), and Riel-Elness is taking over many of the day-to-day oversight and programming for DIB. Ian Stroud, the director of student success, is helping to manage and lead aspects of DIB, according to Zamjahn. 

According to Riel-Elness, things should still look pretty normal at DIB this year. He said their biggest goal is making sure students are connected with one another and the resources they need. 

Zamjahn said there has been conversation about adding other pieces to the role of director to help the student in more areas like financial literacy, career support, and more. He said: “What I'm trying to do is look at how we can take the great things that Martin has done, but then add in other pieces of support to make it more holistic.”

Olague said in an email statement: "What people always remember about their college years are the connections they make with others. People and community have to be at the center of any student experience. When done right, the students learn a lot from the university, and the university learns a lot from it's students. I have learned so much from you, and I will carry that forward moving on. Thank you so much for guiding me, and helping me in my career. UW-River Falls will always have a place in my heart."