Clanton native has interesting job in Wyoming

Published 11:40 pm Friday, September 26, 2008

Nell Russell’s position at the University of Wyoming is one that you might call unconventional.

Russell was recently promoted to associate vice president for diversity, in addition to her responsibilities as director of employment practices.

But what exactly does an associate vice president of diversity do? Russell provides employee training relating to sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, investigates civil rights complaints, and offers job search training.

“I am excited by this new challenge,” she said in an interview conducted by the university. “UW is poised for regional and national leadership on many fronts, and this new focus on diversity is an example of that.”

Russell, 60, was born in the Clanton home of her grandparents, the late Robert and Roxie Dickerson. She is remembered by many as Marsha Terry.

“You know how Southern people are. They have a lot of names,” she joked.

When she was 7, her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where she attended John Hay High School and graduated in 1966.

Russell went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in liberal arts at Northeastern University in Boston. She did her graduate studies at the University of Akron, earning a master’s in higher education administration, and received her certificate in management development from Brown University in Providence, RI.

Russell has held leadership positions in higher education for more than 32 years, including:

assistant director, associate director and director of affirmative action at Northeastern University

director of affirmative action at Brown University

member, Ivy League Affirmative Action Officer’s group

Russell was hired as the University of Wyoming’s director of employment practices in 2004, and she plans on retiring there.

“The people are about the same,” she said when asked about life in Wyoming compared with the South. “There are a lot of small towns and open spaces.”

She added she has not visited Clanton in several years but has a cousin who lives in her birth home.

“I would like to get back to Clanton,” she said.

Russell lives in Laramie, Wyo. with her husband, James Russell of Attalla, Ala.

Note: Biographical information in this story was taken from Russell’s bio, which is available on the UW Web site

– Scott Mims can be reached at