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April 19, 2023: Quarterly Division Update

The Johnston-Fix Foundation has agreed to continue to support Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives at Whitman College through the 2023–2024 academic year. Johnston-Fix has been the principal sponsor for the Third Space Speaker Series through a seed grant they provided initially in 2021 to support projects developed by the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Matika Wilbur, indigenous scholar and author of Project 562, will close out the Third Space Speaker Series for this year with a presentation at 6 p.m. this evening in Maxey Auditorium.

The Division has continued the planning process for the tentatively titled Third Space Center. This repurposed campus building will offer a space on campus that centers the culture, history, images and needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. As a complement to the Glover Alston Center which functions as a valuable solidarity space, the Third Space Center will function as an affinity and sanctuary space. All will be welcome in the Third Space Center, but the racial climate data collected in the last two years indicates the need for space on campus where communities of color know and feel they matter. As we work to make sure the entire campus feels that way for students, staff and faculty of color, the Third Space Center will serve as a location where BIPOC students can unapologetically express their full selves, without feeling compelled to code switch, encountering microaggressions or the pressure of stereotype threats. The student-centered design committee is providing suggestions, recommendations and guidance for the interior of this vital campus space expected to open to students in fall 2023.

Near the end of last semester, the Division launched the newly formed Inclusive Excellence Council (IEC). IEC membership consists of staff, faculty and students with multiple different identities from a range of areas across the campus. Council members bring insights from both lived experience and formal education/training that can be leveraged to examine complex diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism and accessibility (DEIA) issues. IEC work is evolving well and the members are reviewing the emerging DEIA strategic priorities. Active subcommittees are hard at work contributing to Divisional efforts related to: DEIA Grants and Awards, Campus Climate Measurement and Data Sharing, DEIA Micro-Lessons and Skillshops, and future Community Learning Days.

As part of an intentional and strategic DEIA capacity building effort, several individuals have been selected to join the 2023 Whitman delegation to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) next month in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more than thirty years, NCORE has been recognized as the premier learning space for the development of DEIA competencies. As noted on their website, NCORE is “the leading and most comprehensive national forum on issues of race and ethnicity in higher education.” NCORE “speakers and sessions offer strategies for expanding educational access and success for diverse, traditionally underrepresented populations.” In addition to dozens of topical presentations and pre-conference institutes, this year’s conference will include keynotes from David Truer, Michelle Alexander, Linda Sarsour and Paola Ramos.

The College Accessibility Committee (CAC) is making inroads with our ADA Transition Plan development and expects to share a draft plan with the campus community before the end of the spring semester. A tentative location for a lactation space has been identified and they are exploring options for a sensory safe space. Earlier this month, the Center for Teaching and Learning organized an event focused on “Neurodiversity in the Classroom” which highlighted strategies to make learning spaces more inclusive and effective for learners with autism and sensory needs. The CAC is working on modifications to our existing reporting system to allow for online reporting of accessibility-related obstructions on campus.

Earlier this month, the offices of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of the three Walla Walla Colleges (Walla Walla University, Walla Walla Community College and Whitman College) organized a gathering for students of color at the Water Center on the campus of Walla Walla Community College. Students used their time together to build connections, play games and exchange insights related to navigating higher education spaces as minoritized students.

The Division has continued to roll out the DEIA Maturity Matrix planning tool. Similar to an equity scorecard, the DEIA Maturity Matrix is a custom tool based on the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (the NACCC). The NACCC utilizes specific pillars of inquiry (e.g. Racial Learning and Literacy, Cross-Racial Engagement, Mattering and Affirmation) to gauge racial climate conditions and we have leveraged those constructs to guide the development of the DEIA Maturity Matrix. Several departments have begun implementing plans for advancing inclusive excellence utilizing the multi-step matrix process. To put a DEIA Maturity Matrix plan in place, units schedule an initial orientation, complete a unit survey/audit, receive and review a custom plan for DEIA capacity building (generated by the Division based on their survey results). Once adopted, individual units begin implementing their plan with periodic check-ins on their progress by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. After 12 months, units will redo the unit survey and revise their plan for the next year.

In collaboration with Human Resources, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion is coordinating a training focused on inclusive supervision. Building on last year’s presentation by Jason Timpson, this year, Whitman staff supervisors will have the opportunity to attend a live webinar with the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, President and Founder of the Washington Consulting Group. Dr. Washington’s session, “Supervision Across Difference: Encourage Meaningful Conversation and Improve the Climate for Minoritized Staff on Campus,” will be hosted by Human Resources and include facilitated Q&A and a post-webinar debrief.

The Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) continues to directly engage in efforts to advance inclusive excellence. In recent weeks, Dr. John Johnson has met with several candidates for faculty positions during their campus visits and provided feedback on candidates where appropriate. Dr. Johnson has contributed to the planning for the 2023 Faculty of Color Retreat and has been collaborating with Admission on recruitment strategies to ensure a diverse entering class.

The VPDI delivered a presentation to new employees on the Principles of Inclusive Excellence as part of the onboarding series organized by Human Resources and met with members of the Alumni Board to share information about ongoing DEIA efforts at the college.

International Student and Scholar Services

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is actively providing tax filing support to students. Every international student must file some tax forms, even if they have no income and no financial aid. ISSS provides students with access to Sprintax, international tax preparation software, to assist with filing their returns and to ensure compliance with visa requirements.

ISSS has organized several social events and outdoor activities for international students in the last two months, including a ski trip and a camping/rafting trip scheduled for this week in collaboration with the Outdoor Program. The International Friendship Family program continues to attract participants and host families. A reception earlier this month brought together prospective families and interested international students.

In the last month, a student advisory board was formed by ISSS to help gather feedback for the office from the international student community regarding their Whitman experience. With the support of Institutional Research, a survey was also administered to gauge student satisfaction with existing ISSS programs and resources. ISSS is also providing pre-enrollment guidance to approximately 50 admitted international students expected to join the Whitman community in the fall.

Religious and Spiritual Life

April is always busy, and so far this has been one of the busiest Aprils yet for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL)! Not only does this month mark the confluence of many religious holidays from a broad range of religious traditions, there is also a marked increase in critical mass and student engagement across traditionally underrepresented faith communities. Here are some highlights:

Religious and Spiritual Life coordinates the Whitman Interfaith Council which recently gathered for food, conversation and community building. The group met at 7:38 p.m., the official time of sunset on that day, in order to break the Ramadan fast with our Muslim friends. Spiritual identities represented around the table included: Unitarian Universalism, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Humanism, Christianity and Islam.

Whitman Interfaith Council gathering

On Palm Sunday, Catholic Mass was held, and on Easter, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship hosted a potluck in the All Faiths Room.

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship potluck

To support Muslims at Whitman during Ramadan, RSL has coordinated several trips to the nearest mosque located in the Tri Cities where Whitman students partake in prayers and iftars with other Muslims from around the region and pick up supplies and foods from an Arab market that are difficult to find in Walla Walla.

Jewish students hosted a well-attended and joyful Passover Seder that included the symbolic meal, fun skits and even a horah! The following week, RSL also hosted a luncheon for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Dharma Talk
Dharma Talk

Over a spring break, a small group of students interested in Buddhist meditation attended a retreat at the Tahoma Zen Monastery on Whidbey Island, and then more recently hosted a visit from Genjo Marinello Roshi, Abbot of the Chobo-ji Zen Center in Seattle. The well attended dharma talk was sponsored by the RSL in partnership with Walla Walla’s Dharma Sangha Zen Buddhist group.

LGBTQIA+ Student Services

LGBTQIA+ Student Services continues to offer Queer Ally Coalition (QuAC) workshops. There are currently 3 different workshop tiers available, including an introductory, intermediate and advanced workshop. Each tier is created in a way to fit the needs of an individual’s knowledge regarding the LGBTQIA+ community and their positionality.

A series of campus events were organized for Trans Week of Empowerment in March, including a S’mores Night and a Gayme Night. Whitman is also celebrating Pride in April and has a number of different activities lined up for the month. An Out@Whitman event was organized last week to provide the community with opportunities to share about their experiences on campus. A screen printing program is scheduled for later this week, followed by a panel discussion with LGBTQIA+ identifying Biology faculty next week and the Community Pride Picnic slated for May 6 (postponed from an April date due to weather conditions).

LGBTQIA+ Student Services also sponsored travel for six students to Portland, Oregon to attend Portland State’s annual Queer Students of Color Conference. Students had an opportunity to network and build community with other LGBTQIA+ identifying students of color in the Pacific Northwest.

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