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November 3, 2021 - Division of Diversity and Inclusion Updates

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

Intercultural Center

The Intercultural Center (IC) continues to provide support to affinity groups, student clubs and student leaders. A leader retreat was offered by the IC last month that provided club leaders with an opportunity to connect with each other and offered guidance on how to leverage a variety of institutional resources (Whitlife, ReidTV, Contingency funds) to help enhance their organization’s operations. Students also heard from a number of Whitman staff at the retreat, notably Social Media Specialist Kathia Jimenez from Communications, who offered valuable insights on a variety of topics like social media marketing and promotion. 

With the support of the IC director, the team of Inclusion Fellows have been developing and hosting a number of events and projects. The recent Fly Mentoring Program Pizza Making event and the LatinXcellence Night are two examples of programming to advance belonging and inclusion. The Inclusion Fellows are also supporting the relaunch of Freedom Songs, which will be taking place next Friday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in Cordiner Hall. RSVP here to attend. 

The IC is also supporting the planning for the 2021-22 Power and Privilege Symposium (P&P). The IC Director and the Associate Director of Student Activities, Dorothy Mukasa ’19, serve as co-advisors to the P&P executive team. This year’s student organizers for P&P include executive directors sophomore Tejashree Jadhav and junior Ilse Spiropoulos; operations directors, junior Eboni Haynes  and sophomore Nomin Batsukh; program directors, sophomore Nishtha Rajbhandari and first year Ategeka Musinguzi; and communications and marketing director, first year Eyleen Menchu Tuy. At noon this Friday, Nov. 5 at the GAC, the P&P executive team will kick-off Continuing the Conversation with discussion about the upcoming symposium. 

International Student and Scholar Services

After a nearly two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the Friendship Family program has been relaunched. The program connects international students with a local family that will help introduce them to the Walla Walla community, support their experience at Whitman, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange. Host families and students establish and define a relationship that works for both parties. Programs of this type are increasingly rare on US campuses, but they can be a valuable engagement mechanism for international students. Many lifelong friendships have been formed along with innumerable airline miles logged by host families visiting their students abroad years later. More than two dozen international students are participating in the program.

Additional passive resources are also being developed and provided to international students at Whitman. International students have access to a Canvas course, managed by Greg Lecki, which includes a range of useful content they can access independently. In recent weeks, modules focused on international paths to employment, permanent residency, asylum, temporary protected status, special student relief resources, and more have been added to this unique Canvas course. 

International Student and Scholar Services is also pleased to announce the approval of the Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences class. The result of a productive collaboration with professors Sharon Alker, Kurt Hoffman, Michelle Janning and Career and Community Engagement Center staff Mitzy Rodriguez Camiro, Nikki Brueggeman and Noah Leavitt, this one-credit class will provide an opportunity for international students with F-1 visas to participate in structured, monitored off-campus internships. The course, which is set to start next summer, will allow for more equitable access to off-campus paid internship opportunities for international students via the Curricular Practical Training work authorization.

Religious and Spiritual Life

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) has launched an Interfaith Council comprised of students representing seven different religious and/or spiritual traditions on campus. The group meets monthly to engage in dialogue across worldviews and experiences. Interfaith Chaplain Adam Kirtley hopes the council will serve to not only foster understanding and friendship, but that it will model cross-religious cooperation in response to world events, celebrations, and tragedies.

The RSL continues to engage with students in several different ways throughout each week. Grieving@Whitman provides a space for students seeking support as they navigate loss. Spirituali-TEA is a weekly opportunity to join in casual conversations in the Cleveland Commons Coffee House that are facilitated by the chaplain. Big Tent gatherings are organized each week at the Grover Alston Center (GAC) and focus on a different tradition, practice or worldview. Recent gatherings have included Unitarian Universalism, as well as Meditation Practice. Upcoming Big Tent gatherings will focus on Paganism (Nov. 3) and Bahai (Nov. 10). If you'd like to be connected to a religious group at Whitman or participate in any of the RSL programming, contact the Interfaith Chaplain at kirtleam@whitman.edu.

Finally, the RSL has released the latest edition of Around the Table, a digital publication featuring reflections from the broad spectrum of spiritual identities at Whitman. This month's featured contributor is senior Alison Luck, a Unitarian Universalist, who writes about how the concept of "change" is woven into the fabric of her tradition.

Division of Diversity and Inclusion

The search for a Director of Equity & Compliance/Title IX Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) are still ongoing. Both searches are active, with the hope of bringing finalists to campus later this month. 

As of Nov. 1, 2021, Greg Lecki is now the Director of International Student and Scholar Services. Over the last two years, Greg has served as the Associate Director of the Intercultural Center for International Support Services. While Greg will continue to work in collaboration with both the Intercultural Center and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, it was important to acknowledge the growth in international students at Whitman, as well as emphasize the specialized nature of Greg’s work at the institution with a title change. Please take a moment to commend Director Lecki for his dedication and commitment to supporting international students.

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with Human Resources, has made an asynchronous online course in Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging available to staff supervisors at the College. The Supervisors will have until the end of the fall semester to preview the course, assign the course to employees in their area, or offer feedback to the Division about the content. The two-hour course is offered through Vector Solutions, the same workplace education company that provides our mandated employee sexual harassment training. 

In conjunction with the Office of the Provost, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion has secured an institutional membership with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). NCFDD is a nationally-recognized professional development resource for faculty that provides its members with access to online career development and mentoring resources. 

In addition to NCFDD, Whitman is also part of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA). Several Whitman community members attended last month’s LACRELA eConvening on Supporting and Retaining Faculty of Color. The next eConvening is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9 from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. with a focus on Recruiting and Strategically Diversifying Staff at All Levels. Visit the Whitman LACRELA RSVP form to secure a spot for the next session.  

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College, organized a Tri-College Student of Color Gathering. Roughly 50 students from the three local higher education institutions gathered at Kiwanis Park to connect, engage, and build with each other. 

The Division continues to convene the Whitman Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE). The 2021-22 composition for WIDE has been set and the committee is working to coordinate Community Learning activities for 2022 and establishing a DEIA mini-grant program among other projects for the year. 

Finally, the VPDI participated in the Intercultural Center’s Meet and Eat program which provides student leaders with opportunities to network and engage with BIPOC scholars and professionals. The VPDI has also been meeting regularly with a collection of student leaders interested in the status of institutional efforts to provide education around consent, sexual violence, and bystander intervention. Efforts are underway to coordinate and refine College programming in this area.

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