Taunita V. Stephenson, an experienced athletic administrator turned HR and DEIB professional, has been named the Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at the University of Pennsylvania. The position is shared between the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics and Wellness at Penn.
Stephenson has spent the past three years at The Pingry School in Basking Ridge, N.J., where she was most recently the People Operations Business Partner after serving as the Assistant Director of DEIB Strategic Initiatives and also as Associate Athletic Director. At Pingry, she was promoted twice into newly created roles and served as a strategic partner with leadership to align employee experience and DEIB efforts with business goals.
She advanced diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as core organizational values through cultural change, anti-racism, and non-discriminatory practices and was a leader in the talent acquisition process to ensure inclusive hiring, onboarding, and management practices. Taunita also served as The Pingry School's Assistant Varsity Girls Basketball Coach for the entire duration of her tenure.
"We are so excited to bring Taunita on board in this shared position with Wellness at Penn," Alanna W. Shanahan, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W'69 Director of Athletics and Recreation said. "Taunita's hiring continues our development of a culture that embraces different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. She brings an impressive résumé both within and outside of athletics and we can't wait to see what she helps us accomplish moving forward."
"We are thrilled to welcome Taunita to our team at Penn," says Benoit Dubé, MD, Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer. "This new role will further our mission of infusing wellness throughout the Penn experience through inclusive, innovative, and impactful initiatives. We are excited and energized by the opportunity to expand our ongoing partnership with our colleagues in Penn Athletics, and with her incredible experience, Taunita will surely help us to enhance that collaboration to better serve our students. As a long-standing commitment of the University, DEIB is critical to the work we do here in Wellness and to the overall success of our students, faculty, and staff."
"I am absolutely thrilled to join the extraordinary team at the University of Pennsylvania," Stephenson said. "I am grateful and inspired to contribute to Athletic Director Alanna W. Shanahan's dynamic vision, which is defined by strategic commitments to foster a safe and inclusive culture with purposeful diversity, belonging, social justice, and antiracism activations and interventions. The opportunity to collaborate with and learn from esteemed leaders such as Dr. Benoit Dubé and (Associate Vice Provost) Ufuoma Pela, with the aim of making a meaningful impact on both the employee and student experiences, energizes me. This opportunity seamlessly aligns with my commitment as a mission-driven professional dedicated to making a positive and lasting effect on legacy brands and institutions with rich history and tradition. I am eager to contribute to the ongoing success of the University of Pennsylvania as an esteemed member of The Ivy League."
She previously served as a Director for the City of Birmingham, Alabama, appointed by Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. In the role, she was responsible for strategic advisement and project management for the Mayor and his Executive Team regarding the Birmingham Crossplex, a facility that has an annual economic impact of $100 million dollars to the City of Birmingham by hosting more than 200 events per year, including seven Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. By building relationships in the Five Points West and Ensley neighborhoods, as well as the greater Birmingham community, Taunita made significant contributions to the employee, participant, spectator and community experiences contributing to the success of Birmingham as a growing Sports and Entertainment Tourism Destination.
Stephenson's career also includes seven years in athletics, with six at the collegiate level. She was the Associate Athletic Director of Student-Athlete Success/SWA at Lander University in 2017-18, where she launched a Leadership Academy focused on career development, leadership, and service for more than 350 participants. From 2015-16, Stephenson was the Assistant Commissioner of Events and Partnerships at the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, servicing 15 institutions (14 HBCUs) for 13 championships, special events, media days, and meetings. Taunita's leadership led to the acquisition of Bevel, a Black-Owned Silicon Valley start-up with over $33 million in investments as the SIAC's Official Grooming Sponsor, launching the viral #BevelBand Campaign and the creation of an Influencer Strategy where she leveraged relationships with Minority Business Enterprises such as SmoothNGroove, YardTalk 101, HBCUPrideNation and HBCU Gameday.
At her alma mater, Delaware State University, she was the Assistant Director of Wellness, Recreation, and Campus Events in 2014-15, and also spent two years at Grinnell College as the Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to Athletics. She began her career as a Player Engagement Assistant with the National Football League, serving under the leadership of Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent in 2012.
Stephenson is a 2009 graduate of Delaware State, with a bachelor's degree in sports management. She then earned an MBA in 2011 and a Master's in Sport Business Management in 2012 from the University of Central Florida. She is also a graduate of the NCAA Leadership Development-sponsored Dr. Charles Whitcomb Leadership Institute and is currently enrolled in Penn's Chief Learning Officer Doctor of Education program.
Taunita is the daughter of two United States Air Force Retirees, SMSgt Kevin E. Stephenson, and MSgt Priscilla L. Merritt, and has a brother, Khalid A. Stephenson. As a "proud military brat," she lived all over the country growing up but considers Upper Marlboro, Md., and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area home. Additionally, Taunita is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.