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Monday, June 14, 2021

New diversity czar takes office

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When Karrah Herring was named Indiana’s first equity, inclusion and opportunity officer by Gov. Eric Holcomb in November 2020, she was planning ways to balance her work and her family. At the time, she was eight months pregnant and planning a move from her hometown of South Bend to Carmel to be closer to the new job.  

Like many working mothers, Herring is up at 5 a.m. to care for her newborn son and pump milk every day. To center herself ahead of her workday, Herring said she prays for her family, the majority of whom are still in South Bend for the time being.  

Since her move earlier this year, Herring has traveled back and forth to visit her support system — her husband and two teenage children, as well as her parents. 

“I have to take those moments to see them,” Herring said. “It’s been a rough transition, but this is a bigger purpose that will not only benefit me, but the entire state.” 

As diversity czar, Herring, 38, works with government agencies to improve operations and ensure there are opportunities for minorities to climb up the ladder within the agencies.  

The position was a campaign promise for Holcomb, who announced his intentions in an address in August 2020. In the wake of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, Holcomb emphasized the need for more inclusion and equity throughout the state. 

“My goal is to better build diversity and foster an inclusive environment within state government and the services we provide so every Hoosier can take full advantage of their gifts and potential,” Holcomb said in a statement following Herring’s appointment. “Karrah will guide every state agency with her impressive experiences at one of our state’s world-renowned universities.” 

While Herring is Indiana’s first diversity czar, her years at Notre Dame University prepared her for her current responsibilities. Since 2011, Herring served as director of public affairs for the university and was on the school’s human resources leadership team for four years, where she oversaw implementation of Title IX laws. She also created affirmative action plans and supervised workplace investigations. 

Herring said she learned important skills from her time at Notre Dame, including the importance of relying on your resources.  

“Probably the most critical thing I learned being on a senior leadership team is you really have to lean into the subject matter experts,” Herring said. “I don’t know the specifics of a subject matter, and they’re the experts in the field, so I’ll listen to what they need and figure out ways I can support that.” 

Herring said listening to the needs of an organization and meeting people where they are will help her achieve her goals for her first year, which include examining workplace culture and engagement and coming up with ways for organizations to recruit, train and retain employees. 

While being away from her family has been difficult, Herring said the culture in the governor’s office feels like a family, which is partly why she accepted the job. 

“This environment that I have come into … has been so welcoming and so helpful, and people are rooting for this to be successful,” Herring said. “They’ve surrounded me with warmth and support, and it’s a great team to work for. I’m excited to get to work.” 

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper. 

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