College of ACES appoints first dean to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion

Elizabeth Olson
Elizabeth Olson

Professor Elizabeth Olson will serve as the first associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Olson’s tenure will begin on Jan. 16, 2024, pending approval by the Board of Trustees. 

“Dr. Olson’s appointment is an important step toward the college’s commitment to fostering innovation, driving organizational success, and creating a place where every individual’s contributions are valued and celebrated,” said Germán Bollero, College of ACES Dean and Robert A. Easter Chair. “We are very fortunate to have her experience, passion, and determination to help us advance excellence in ACES.”

As ACES’ Chief Diversity Officer, Olson will energize the college’s DEI efforts, coordinating with existing DEI committees to develop and implement an action plan to advance organizational culture, training, recruitment, engagement, and support in this space. 

“I am thrilled to be joining the College of ACES in this position,” Olson said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to contribute to a community that actively embraces inclusivity and celebrates the unique perspectives each individual brings. I look forward to working collaboratively to support an environment where everyone feels empowered and valued.”

Olson comes to the U. of I. from the College of Education and Human Development at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), where she joined as an assistant professor in 2016 and became an associate professor in 2022. Her research focuses on gender and sexual minority populations, contextual understanding of historically marginalized individuals and families, and social and health disparities for vulnerable populations. She also has experience teaching courses related to diverse populations and leading learning communities focused on equitable practices in higher education.

With a double major in psychology and sociology from Illinois Wesleyan University, Olson went on to earn a master’s degree in social work, a master’s degree in human and community development, and a doctorate in human development and family studies at the U. of I. with the latter two degrees from the College of ACES.

Olson’s work has been recognized with several awards, including the Faculty Award for Excellence in Inclusion and Diversity from BGSU; the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the American Association of University Women; and the Catalyst Award from the LGBT Resource Center at Illinois. 

"Equity and inclusion are not end goals, simply boxes to check on a to-do list," Olson said, reflecting on this work. “Instead, we should think about them as guiding principles; DEI is a framework to inform all of the work that we do in the college."

If you have questions or concerns, Olson welcomes your email at