2023 Rising Stars: Rame Hanna

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Rame Hanna (Photo by Bryan Oller)

By Amanda Hancock

Roughly a year ago, Rame Hanna wrote a letter to the UCCS community.

“We have all started a new chapter in our lives, taken a leap of faith or tried something that may have been out of our comfort zone,” they wrote. “Just a few weeks ago, my partner and our goldendoodle packed our car and embarked on a 40 hour drive across the country to start a new life in Colorado Springs.”

Hanna’s new life here started with a new job. They serve as the university’s inaugural vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, a role “responsible for guiding and leading institution-wide efforts to advance a culture of belonging,” according to the college’s website.

As a social scientist and cultural change agent, Hanna has spent their career centering “critical diversity scholarship in pursuit of inclusive excellence,” they said.

A year later, Hanna put this work into practice at UCCS.

They’ve sought input from voices at all levels of the university through one-on-one conversations, surveys and community dialogues. Hanna helped create the Division of DEI, which included hiring two other inaugural positions — the director for DEI strategic initiatives and the director for DEI education and outreach.

The new team is launching the Inclusive Excellence and Belonging action plan, which calls for the university’s colleges and divisions to come up with several diversity goals every two years. Hanna says the goal is to “integrate DEI into the full fabric of the institution.”

Hanna, who has held similar positions at other institutions and worked at places such as Harvard University and Dartmouth College, was drawn to UCCS because of the “potential for positive change.”

“I think there’s a strong need to be able to create intentional access and equity in higher education spaces,” Hanna says, “and to work on fostering a culture where everyone feels an authentic sense of belonging. Being able to be in a role where I can help center DEI as a critical lens and framework in everything we’re doing at the institution was a critical impetus to this.”

Hanna’s passion for this work began early on.

"Helping educate future global leaders is an honor.”

“My parents immigrated to this country when I was young seeking refuge during the gulf war,” they said. “Growing up in the States and watching them go through numerous legal processes really opened my eyes to pursue this as a field.”

As a first-generation Arab American and member of the LGBTQ community, they also relate personally to the DEI work.

“Higher education hasn’t always been a space that was made available for everyone,” Hanna says. “It’s really critical in promoting social and upward mobility to have a space where you do feel a sense of belonging.”

Hanna, who is transgender, has big plans for the DEI team. Sometimes, that can translate to small moments, like when Hanna held a healing circle on campus following the shooting at Club Q in November. More than 100 people from the UCCS community participated.

“For me, representation matters,” they said. “Having a seat at the table where critical decisions are being made daily allows me the opportunity to uplift and empower diverse voices.”

Hanna has high hopes for where they could be sitting next, including maybe as a university president.

“My vision for the future is to really pave the way for greater access and equity for all in higher education,” Hanna says.

Meanwhile, they look forward to more years at UCCS and in Colorado Springs.

“It’s been an incredible first year of work,” Hanna says. “For me, helping educate future global leaders is an honor.”

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