Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that Stephanie Burrage will be Minnesota’s first chief equity officer.
Burrage is set to move from her current position as deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. In that role, she has focused on human resources, government relations and the department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Center.
She also led a monthslong effort called Mind, Body and Soul — a gathering of hundreds of Black leaders around the state to seek advice about the biggest issues that communities face and about the funding areas that could improve quality of life for Minnesotans of color.
In her new post, Burrage will create a new state office of equity and opportunity. Burrage said that in her previous roles at the department and working as a teacher, principal and superintendent, listening and building community have been central to her work.
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“I hope that in this role that I am able to work with all the communities across the state of Minnesota,” Burrage said. “I don't care where you are, if it's your race, gender, sexual orientation, if it is every connection of where we sit, our geography, that is important for all of us to work together.”
Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said that the move to bring on Burrage as chief equity officer stemmed from the conversations with Mind, Body and Soul. After hearing Minnesotans call for a centralized position that could focus on equity in state government, they chose to create the role and to select Burrage to lead the office.
“I think when we talk about this position of chief equity officer, it's not a nice to have, it's a must have. And we have heard that loud and clear from the community,” Flanagan said. “It is easy in government systems to simply go to the status quo, especially in times of emergency or crisis and we have choice points all along the way to do things in a better, more equitable manner. And that is why Dr. Burrage is here.”
Burrage said that in the role, she hoped to make room in state discussions for communities that haven’t felt represented at the Capitol, boost professional learning resources and close long-standing disparities in the state.
Minnesota has long-standing gaps in homeownership, health care outcomes, academics and others areas between white residents and residents of color.
James Burroughs, Children’s Minnesota senior vice president, said he was optimistic that Burrage could help close those gaps.
“The data is we've been bad for a while, and disparities, we’ve got a whole office that has data and stats for that. We know it's been bad. Let's fix it. Let's fix health. Let's fix education. Let's fix economic development,” Burroughs said, then turned to Burrage. “This is why it’s important, take your Black girl magic and go.”
Burrage is set to begin in her new role starting next month.