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March 9, 2022 Division Updates

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion has been actively contributing to institutional efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism at the college. The following is a brief update highlighting some activities since our last update.

Religious and Spiritual Life

In addition to working closely with the faith communities on campus to plan their busy season of religious holidays this spring, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is looking to connect students to important off-campus resources as well. The office is working to establish an ongoing partnership with the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities to periodically bring an Imam to campus, or transport students to the mosque in Richland.

Over a dozen students have signed up to spend part of their spring break on a meditation retreat at the Tahoma Zen Monastery on Whidbey Island. Members of Whitman's Interfaith Council hope to attend a conference on Campus Interfaith Leadership, hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago in August.

International Student and Scholar Services

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) welcomed three new students this semester. Following the recent relaxation of COVID policies, ISSS resumed weekly group meetings with international students at the GAC every Thursday at 4pm. At this point in the academic year, ISSS is working to verify health insurance coverage for all eligible international students. The Director of ISSS is carefully reviewing student academic records and updating the federal SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) database.

In collaboration with the Career and Community Engagement Center, ISSS continues working on the Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences class that will improve access to off-campus internships for international and domestic students. ISSS has also recently been collaborating with the Office of the Registrar to update the Classification of Instructional Program codes that are assigned to each academic major. This short series of numbers actually determines the maximum length of post-graduate internships for international students and impacts their future eligibility for work visas.

Early each year, ISSS also assists international students in updating their income tax profiles online. Using this data, the college can determine appropriate income tax withholding. Towards the end of February, ISSS distributed access codes to a specialized software package that helps international students resolve their income tax returns.

Intercultural Center

The search for a new Director for the Intercultural Center (IC) is underway. The position is posted and we have identified members of the campus community to serve on the search committee (including a student member). The initial review date is March 21, 2022 and we hope to complete the search before the end of the spring semester.

The team of student Inclusion Fellows who were hired to work in the Intercultural Center this year continue to provide support to student communities and staff the IC. Those students meet regularly with the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) and continue to serve the campus. Many of the IC Inclusion Fellows were active participants in this year’s Power and Privilege Symposium.

Division of Diversity and Inclusion

In January of 2022, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion welcomed Natasha Blake as the Executive Assistant to the VPDI. The division was also happy to have Cassandre Beccai join the team as the Director of Equity and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator last month. Both new employees are located in Memorial and getting settled into their new roles. Welcome Natasha and Cassandre!

Back in January, the training and education sub-committee of WIDE coordinated a set of workshops/education sessions with representatives from Inclusion Design Group as part of the annual Community Learning Days. The sessions were designed to help Whitman staff and faculty understand and develop an inclusive mindset.   

The Division was thrilled to launch the Third Space Speaker Series in February. The featured guests for the launch included Dr. Sheeva Sabati and Dr. Leigh Patel. Dr. Patel is the author of the book No Study without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education. The Third Space Series brings in two speakers who are in dialogue with each other and with the Whitman community. There are two more Third Space events scheduled for this semester that you will not want to miss. On April 14 we will have Dr. Lissa Ramirez-Stapleton and Dr. Subini Ancy Annamma on campus for a presentation related to critical disability studies and on April 21 we will be joined by Dr. Nicholas Villanueva and Dr. Scott Brooks for an engaging dialogue about identity, sports and society.

This afternoon Whitman College will host the second Tri-College Faculty and Staff of Color Gathering of the year. This is one of two regular efforts to bring “global majority” staff and faculty from the three local higher education institutions together for connection and community building.

In collaboration with Human Resources and Student Affairs, the division invited Jason Timpson to campus to provide two separate presentations last month. The first session, targeting student leaders, was focused on growth within student organizations and community healing. The second session was part of an effort to prepare staff supervisors for the upcoming performance review process and focused on principles of inclusive and antiracist supervision. A recording of the inclusive supervision session is available upon request.

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion is in the process of recruiting a temporary staff person to coordinate WISE, the Whitman Institute for Scholastic Enrichment. After a two-year suspension due to COVID and staffing shortages, efforts are underway to revitalize the WISE program. WISE is an alumni-supported, pre-college outreach program targeting local middle school students.  

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion has been working with Institutional Research on the analysis of our NACCC survey data. The NACCC is a campus racial climate survey that was administered to Whitman students last spring. The National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (The NACCC) was administered at several private liberal arts colleges last year and we are able to compare our data to that of our peer institutions. The summary report provided by the survey developers and a narrative presentation describing Whitman’s NACCC results will be posted on the college website shortly. We will be launching the staff version of the NACCC survey at the end of this month.

The Board of Trustees approved the addition of two new positions in the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. We will begin the process of recruiting a Director of LGBTQIA+ Student Services and a DEIA Program Coordinator in the weeks ahead, with anticipated start dates in early July 2022.

Whitman is an institutional member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. NADOHE serves as the preeminent voice for diversity officers in higher education. Its vision is to lead higher education towards inclusive excellence through institutional transformation. Whitman’s senior inclusion administrator, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) John Johnson, will be attending the NADOHE annual conference later this month as part of his commitment to continuing professional development and to secure resources to help enhance and advance our collective DEIA work.

The VPDI has also begun serving as an ex-officio member and administrative sponsor for the College Accessibility Committee. The newly established committee is designed to review and address the accessibility needs and issues that arise at the College. The CAC is co-chaired by Antonia Keithan, Associated Director of Academic Resources, and Tony Ichsan, Director of Facilities Services.

The division is hard at work identifying members and managing the logistics for the Whitman NCORE delegation. As noted in a previous Whitman Today entry, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education is happening this year in nearby Portland, Oregon. The Division intends to sponsor and facilitate the attendance of a handful of Whitman community members who will personally and professionally benefit from the experience and are well positioned to champion inclusive excellence in varied campus sectors following their participation.

Finally, only 22 members of the Whitman community accepted the Walk Through Black Brilliance challenge issued back in late January and submitted the names of 28 brilliant Black people. We want to thank all of you that took the time to reflect on the brilliance of Black people. We will review the submissions and provide a link to a curated list later this month.

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