Chief Diversity Officer

Meet LaVar Charleston

LaVar J. Charleston, Ph.D., is the deputy vice chancellor for diversity & inclusion at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He serves as vice provost and chief diversity officer for the university as well as the Elzie Higginbottom director of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA).

In his role as chief diversity officer, Charleston provides overall leadership for the university’s efforts to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning and working environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and others who work with the university. Along with the staff of the DDEEA, he partners with leadership in the university’s schools, colleges and divisions, as well as shared governance groups, to create policies that promote equity and social justice while fostering a sense of belonging for all members of the UW–Madison community. As director of the DDEEA, Charleston oversees the administration of scholarship and service programs designed to increase diversity and foster equity and inclusion for students, faculty and staff at the university.

A first-generation college graduate and Badger alumnus from Detroit, Charleston previously served as the inaugural associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion at UW–Madison’s School of Education, where he is a clinical professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. In February 2021, Charleston was named to the Governor’s Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, which provides strategic guidance for promoting and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices across Wisconsin state government. In 2018, Charleston was named one of Wisconsin’s “Most Influential Black Leaders” by Madison365. From 2017-19, he served as the inaugural assistant vice chancellor for student diversity, engagement and success at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater.

Charleston earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the UW–Madison School of Education in 2007 and 2010, respectively. He came to UW–Madison in 2005 to work with student diversity programs and initiatives after earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Ball State University.

Charleston has a long affiliation with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, where he helped found Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB) and held several leadership positions. His research has focused on equity, access and inclusion within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. He is credited on more than 50 publications, including as co-editor of the book “Advancing Equity and Diversity in Student Affairs: A Festschrift in Honor of Melvin C. Terrell” (Information Age Publishing, 2017).

LaVar Charleston wearing an off-white suit, multicolored bow tie and pocket square and blue glasses smiles on State Street with the Wisconsin State Capitol building in the background.
Dr. LaVar J. Charleston, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion


Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer
109 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706