Eastern Mennonite University announces two leadership transitions that highlight and strengthen the university’s core values of commitments to peacebuilding and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Jayne Docherty, executive director and professor of conflict transformation, announces her retirement this summer after more than 21 years of service to the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. The first non-Mennonite and the first woman in the executive director’s role, she has served since 2019. Prior to this, she spent seven years as CJP’s academic programs director, from 2013-19. She joined CJP in 2001 as professor of conflict transformation.
Jackie N. Font-Guzmán, currently the university’s executive director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and a tenured professor with CJP, will be elevated to an inaugural role of Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As part of this broader capacity within the university and with additional administrative support, she will also serve CJP in a two-year term as the center’s Strategic Vision Director. This role includes responsibilities that emphasize high-level leadership and strategic planning — in collaboration with current CJP faculty and staff and EMU’s Vice President for Enrollment and Strategic growth, to build upon current progress in repositioning the center’s academic and non-credit programs for growth and success. This includes preparation for and leadership in a search for CJP’s new executive director, to begin in 2024.
This leadership shift is reflective of recommendations generated from a review conducted in 2021 by an external consultant initiated by CJP. The four-month research project involved input from CJP and the broader university around positioning the center for even greater impact and visibility in the cluttered educational environment.
“Jayne Docherty has led CJP through seismic societal and cultural shifts, the COVID-19 pandemic, and disruption of the higher education landscape,” said EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman. “On behalf of our entire executive leadership team, I express our immense gratitude for Jayne’s pragmatic approach to embracing disruptive change and her bold visionary leadership in articulating what a renowned peace and justice program should aspire to be.”
“Jayne has positioned CJP well to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the current times, and to integrate with EMU’s distinctive mission,” said Provost Fred Kniss. “We are thankful for Jackie’s willingness to lead the strategic visioning for CJP’s next stage of development as a flagship program in the university. Her skills and experience uniquely equip her for this task, which benefits both the broader university and the diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work we must all do together.”
Further, Huxman noted: “Throughout the pandemic, philanthropic support for CJP and DEI has been by every measure very successful. These two women have accentuated the sharp positive growth of both programs.”
Docherty called her two decades of work at CJP “an honor and a gift,” and expressed appreciation and gratitude for her colleagues “and those colleagues masquerading as students.”
She continued: “When I stepped into the executive director role, I didn’t expect to spend the next three years figuring out how to turn the disruption of a global pandemic into an opportunity to make our programs more resilient, flexible, and robust. I am so proud of the CJP team for starting a new MA program, making our graduate programs more accessible to students who cannot move to Harrisonburg, experimenting with new ways of teaching, and reorganizing our budgeting and management systems to set CJP up for growth as the world emerges from lockdown.”
Font-Guzmán, who joined EMU in April 2021 from Creighton University, is “eager to join CJP in this new role and excited to collaborate with my colleagues to lead together into the 21st century.”
With both academic and practitioner expertise in conflict engagement and DEI, she views her role “as a promising way to more fully integrate DEI into peacebuilding practices and vice versa.”
“There’s a real synergy there,” Font-Guzmán added. “The present reimagining of CJP is a real opportunity to amplify a larger strategic initiative at EMU. Jayne’s leadership and vision have set us up for success in ensuring CJP’s continued legacy of peacebuilding and social justice throughout the world.”
Docherty will formally step down on June 30, 2022, though she will provide consulting services for an interim period.
The transition will create a new partnership between two colleagues who share a joint respect for their unique capacities for systems thinking and culture change within the conflict resolution field.
“Jackie is an innovator and a leader in our field and co-author of one of the hottest new conflict resolution books, The Neutrality Trap: Disrupting and Connecting for Social Change,” Docherty said. “We are fortunate to have her at EMU in a position to advocate for CJP as the university leaders work out the details for establishing a new unit for professional education and CJP implements curriculum changes and new management practices to support STAR, Summer Peacebuilding Institute, and the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice.”
Among their many goals, the duo plan to connect with graduates, partners and supporters during the next four months, after which, Docherty says, she’ll “take a short break and think about my next calling in the world.”