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University of Utah hires inaugural Athletics Department EDI director

Former professional player and U Football student-athlete Keith Embray joins EDI leadership.

The University of Utah announced today the appointment of Keith Embray as its first executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion operations and associate athletic director for EDI and student belonging.

Keith Embray

Embray, currently Penn State University’s assistant athletics director for student-athlete welfare and development and a former University of Utah student-athlete and professional football player, will return to the university on June 1 to begin serving in this new role. He will hold a joint appointment in the Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Athletics Department with the responsibility of infusing student belonging and the values of equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the Athletics Department. Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Mary Ann Villarreal, Director of Athletics Mark Harlan and Deputy Athletics Director Charmelle Green announced Embray’s appointment Monday, May 2.

“This role is a very important addition to our department and our leadership team,” Harlan said. “I am confident that Keith’s experience and passion for equity, diversity and inclusion, along with his knowledge of our institution as an alum and former student-athlete, will help advance our mission and commitment to EDI as we aim to ensure that every member of our department feel that they belong. I’d like to thank Mary Ann for her leadership and partnership in developing the vision for this position.”

As the Athletics Department’s lead EDI executive, Embray will work in collaboration with university leaders to provide strategic leadership and oversight of EDI operations while building team progress and student success, including developing EDI resources and trainings for student-athletes and staff, advising various student-athlete and staff-led EDI committees and leadership groups, assisting in developing best practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse staff, and serving as the department’s representative on the Pac-12 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council.

The position is the first of its kind at the U and one of just a few at top-tier research universities and members of the American Association of Universities.

“It is with great excitement and humility that I return to the ‘U,’ my alma mater, to serve as the executive director of EDI operations/associate athletics director for EDI and student belonging,” Embray said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from Mary Ann Villarreal, Charmelle Green and Mark Harlan, and I look forward to assisting in seeing the mission given by President Randall of equity and belonging for all members of the U, come to fruition.”

Embray has worked in student-athlete welfare and development for more than 12 years, most recently overseeing Penn State’s program for more than 800 student-athletes in 31 sports. Prior to Penn State, he worked at the University of Central Florida and the University of Notre Dame, and Westminster College. From 1998 to 2010, Embray worked as a project manager in human resources and management consulting at Yamagata & Associates in Salt Lake City. Embray earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Utah and received his MBA from Westminster College.

“The joint appointment of Keith in EDI and athletics will help to strengthen key relationships, ensuring that all EDI units deliver on key performance indicators while providing ongoing educational opportunities and dialogue with athletics including student-athletes, coaches and staff in support of delivering on the principles of shared equity leadership across the university,” Villarreal said.

“There is work to be done, and heavy lifting to do, which is why I am excited to return and give back meaningfully to the place that gave me so much academically, athletically, and personally as a student,” Embray said. He thanked “tremendous leaders, coaches, staff and student-athletes at Notre Dame, Central Florida and Penn State, for they have all played a role in ultimately preparing me to return to the U as a servant leader.”

Finally, he added, in a riff on the U’s brand: “Step one: Imagine. Step two: Do. Go Utes!”