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May 18, 2022 Spring 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.

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)

ISSS is currently working with approximately 50 new students from the incoming class of 2026. ISSS helps admitted international students understand the process to secure a student visa. The ISSS Director recently hired several Whitman students who will assist with International Student Orientation, scheduled for August 19, 2022. 

Interesting fact: Whitman has enrolled international students from 98 different countries since it began enrolling international students. With the first student from Poland joining us in fall 2022, we are at 99! Three digits next year for sure, right Admissions?

Twenty international students are graduating this year, but most will remain in the US for now. Many are applying for Optional Practical Training as a benefit of their Whitman College sponsored F-1 visa, while others will be continuing their education at other US graduate and professional schools. 

The Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences (IDSC 125) course has been launched. This course improves access to structured and monitored off-campus internships for both domestic and international students. Twelve international students are expected to register for the course. Establishing the IDSC 125 course has been possible because of collaboration between the CCEC, Registrar, ISSS and strong support from faculty.

This semester, ISSS established an International Student Life Committee with representation from Admissions, Residence Life, Health Services, the Career and Community Engagement Center, and the Dean of Students Office, in collaboration with international student leaders and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. The Committee will help the College examine and address key issues facing the growing number of international students including food insecurity and access to health services during semester breaks. Thirty international students are expected to remain in the US and on campus during the summer break. ISSS will coordinate a few summer programming opportunities for these students, including a handful of organized outdoor excursions and community activities at the Glover Alston Center.

Equity and Compliance

Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester, the Office of Equity and Compliance received a total of 12 reports of bias incidents and sexual misconduct. Eleven of the incidents occurred in locations or programs within Whitman College's jurisdiction.  

A majority of the incidents were reported through the bias response system, and others came from direct referrals from staff or students. Of the seven reports of sexual misconduct, four involved incidents of unwelcome touching. 

Three of the bias incidents reported involve issues of hostile or offensive environment within the educational program, classroom and/or workplace. 

Informal grievance resolution was the most common mode of closure for all reports and a small portion have moved into Formal Resolution which includes an investigation for which the final outcome has yet to be determined. The final outcomes for all reports range from no-contact directives, consent education and employee reprimand.

Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL)

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life reports a marked increase in the number of students on campus who ascribe to a particular religious identity, or who are expressing interest in exploring spirituality.  While college students are known to report higher levels of interest in engaging life’s most enigmatic questions regarding meaning and purpose, this is perhaps especially true in the wake of a pandemic. Religious and spiritual groups at Whitman have been particularly active the last couple of months. Over spring break, a group of students traveled to the Tahoma Zen Monastery on Whidbey Island for a multi-day meditation primarily held in silence. Many Muslim students at Whitman observed Ramadan during April and RSL organized three trips to the Islamic Center of the Tri Cities for prayer and fellowship. Ramadan ended with a fast-breaking Eid celebration at a packed Glover Alston Center. 

Jewish students hosted a Passover Seder in the Reid Ballroom and observed Holocaust Remembrance Day by hosting a film screening of the Academy Award winning short film, Toyland. Christian students gathered for prayer and brunch at the GAC on the day before Easter. And Hindu students celebrated two versions of Holi - one a ritual gathering around a fire followed by a shared meal, and then a few weeks later, a celebration of color and water to which the entire campus was invited on “Little Ankeny” field. 

The Whitman Labyrinth, located behind Marcus House, has seen good usage in recent weeks as the weather has warmed. Several students gathered on the first Reading Day to find a moment of calm with a labyrinth rock-painting activity. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life looks to build upon the good momentum this year by cultivating strong student leadership for the fall semester and developing recently acquired space in Reid Campus Center for all faiths.

Intercultural Center

The Inclusion Fellows affiliated with the Intercultural Center have continued to provide support and services to the Whitman community. The fellows organized a celebration for graduating seniors at the GAC and distributed stoles and cords to students affiliated with the center who are graduating. The fellows have also been engaged with the multiple searches happening to recruit staff for the Division. Engaging with the current crew of fellows is a formal part of searches and the student staff are evaluating the candidates and providing feedback to the search committees.

The FGWC Fellow is maintaining the FGWC mentor program and other fellows have served in leadership roles for some of the most popular events on campus. Inclusion Fellow Aziz Shabazovic played a central role in the coordination of the Dragtastica program and Inclusion Fellow Lydia Moriku serves as the co-President for the Whitman African Student Association, who organized the Taste of Africa event last month.

LGBTQIA+ Student Services

After a national search, the College has hired a Director for LGBTQIA+ Student Services. A formal announcement will be forthcoming.

Division of Diversity and Inclusion

Earlier this month, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion presented awards at the annual Student Recognition event. A number of students were recognized for their leadership and engagement in DEIA-related work this past year and were recognized for their service and contributions to the Whitman community. Those recognized included: Lindsey Merritt, Nell Falvey, Sophie Liebsohn, Adam Reid, Jenny Kim, Marian Sandoval Lemus, Olin MacIntosh, Gabby Rose, Toyona Howard, Tejashree Jadhav, Ilse Spiropoulos, Marina Balasanyan, Lydia Moriku, Aziz Sahbazovic, Merry Cockroft, Tatiana Villegas, Bornnie Kabongo, Grace Fashanu, Annie Means, Sueli Gwiazdowski, and Cheysen Cabuyadao-Sipe.

In collaboration with the Whitman Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Council, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion launched a DEAI Cultivation Grant earlier this semester. The mini-grant program is designed to support DEIA initiatives emerging from various campus segments. 

The Division has been coordinating several staff searches this semester. The search for the new Director of the Intercultural Center is nearing completion and the Division recently hired a new Director for LGBTQIA+ Student Services. Finalist candidates for the Division’s new DEIA Program Coordinator position are being interviewed this week. 

The Division is organizing a substantial delegation to attend NCORE, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education, this year. This year’s conference is in Portland, Oregon and the Division is taking advantage of the College’s proximity to this outstanding DEIA professional development and capacity building opportunity. Representatives from each area of the College (Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Human Resources, Physical Plant, Development, Communications and Admissions, as well as Diversity and Inclusion, and ASWC) are part of the delegation. Both the attendees and subsequently, the College, will be changed following this coordinated initiative.

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion is collaborating with Academic Affairs on the Northwest Five Consortium (NW5C) Faculty of Color Retreat. The retreat serves as a space for faculty of color from the five liberal arts colleges in the region to rest, reflect, and connect. This annual program will be held on the campus of Whitman College this year. We are looking forward to hosting our NW5C guests and showcasing the beauty of Walla Walla.

The Division is actively engaging in outreach to share the results of the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) student survey data. Earlier this semester, the VPDI delivered presentations to the faculty and the President’s Advisory Council on the student version of the NACCC. The Division is also working with Institutional Research on the administration of the staff version of this racial climate survey. Staff participation was high and the results for the staff administration of the NACCC are expected in fall 2022. 

The Division hosted the second Third Space Speaker Series event last month. Dr. Scott Brooks and Dr. Nick Villanueva visited the campus and engaged in a riveting discussion about sports, identity, education, and navigating higher education. In addition to their public lecture, the two guest speakers also spent time meeting and consulting the Whitman Athletics coaching staff. 

The Division once again partnered with Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College to coordinate and Tri College Student of Color Gathering. This program brought students of color from the three Walla Walla area institutions together to build connections for community and support. This regular program rotates from campus to campus and the most recent gathering was held at the Walla Walla Community College Water Center.

Due to staffing reductions and the impact of the pandemic, the Whitman Institute for Scholastic Enrichment has been dormant for the last two years. The Division has hired a temporary, part-time WISE program coordinator to update and reinstate the program. While a summer 2022 implementation was not feasible, the part-time coordinator is working to establish the systems and networks necessary for a successful summer 2023 relaunch.

The Whitman VPDI, John Johnson, has been selected as a NADOHE CDO Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year. Additional program information can be found here. More details regarding the significance of this selection are forthcoming. 

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