Damien Pitts was looking to make a move, and Oregon just kept popping up. He had visited for other opportunities, and had friends who attended the University of Oregon.
“The state truly sang to me,” he said. As did the Lundquist College of Business.
“One, I really liked the building,” Pitts said, nodding to the gorgeous Lillis Business Complex. “Two, I am really interested in the mix of academic backgrounds in this office: two political science folks, one international education. It was great to see that kind of academic diversity at a business school.”
When the position an advising and diversity initiatives position became available, the Tennessee-native went for it.
As a sociologist, he was interested to see how his background would fit under the umbrella of “business.” He was eager to explore and enhance the Building Business Leaders program and believed his military experience—in both human intelligence collection as well as training soldiers on combat and intelligence gathering skills while preparing them for future leadership roles and new destinations—would translate well with both students and administrators.
Pitts joined us from Salt Lake Community College, where he was employed as an adjunct faculty member at the sociology department. There, he taught classes informing students on cultural and social awareness, preparing them for continuing education and the workforce.
Previous to that, he worked for University of Utah Career Services, where he served as career coach, veterans’ counselor, and government jobs liaison. There, he planned the first-ever Government Career Fair at the University of Utah, which featured 30 government agencies and counted some 300 students in attendance.
At the Lundquist College, Pitts serves as academic advisor and diversity initiatives specialist for undergraduate programs. He started Dec. 19.
Pitts said his coworkers at the Lundquist College were outstanding from the get-go: insightful, kind, open, and genuine.
“Everybody has been very helpful, very interested in seeing me be able to grow, and willing to support it in any ways they can,” he said. “I like being on a team that puts you in a position where you want to support them because they are going to support you.”
Along with advising, the position includes teaching the Building Business Leaders course in the fall and winter and training incoming student mentors.
Pitts said he aims to expand Building Business Leaders, while helping students and others understand its purpose and mission. The program connects underrepresented minority students to the Lundquist College of Business, engages them in an exciting experience while in the pre-business program, and opens doors to career opportunities in business and accounting fields. Graduates of the program become members of the college’s follow-on professional networking group for minority students, the CEO Network.
“I want to prepare our students to be successful in the business major, be able to get these internships, secure jobs, and provide them with the support and experience that they need,” he said. “I want to cultivate a desire in each student to want to reach back and help those students that are coming in behind them. That’s one of the biggest things. I think about my life, and much of my success is because someone saw something in me, and they wanted to pass the torch.”
Pitts added that he hopes students see his office and the leadership suite at the Lillis Business Complex as a comfort zone, but also know there are other places on campus that will support them. He hopes to continue to help open doors for students through relationship building with other on-campus groups, assessments with students, and encouraging students to be a part of things they had never before considered.
“That way they can diversify themselves in a way that will ultimately help them be successful in this world,” he said.
Outside of the college, Pitts serves on the Career and College Prep Committee for National Guide Right Program, creating webinars for high-school-aged black males to instruct them on major-based industry exploration and collaborates with other community-based organizations. He previously served as veterans’ knowledge community representative for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and belongs to the National Eagle Scout Association. He also speaks Korean.