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September 28, 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 few months.

International Student and Scholar Services

This year Whitman welcomed its largest international student cohort in history with 60 new first year international students. Those 60 students, along with another 10 returning international sophomores, participated in a 5-day international student orientation (ISO) program in August. The ISO program covers essential information for this cohort of students, such as visa and employment regulations, non-resident income taxes, international student health insurance, U.S. education system structures, regional culture and more. 

International Student and Scholar Services worked with colleagues on campus to coordinate housing for students during ISO as well as a vaccination clinic for those unable to access the Covid-19 vaccination in their home countries. Representing 36 different countries, several new international students were also transported to the local Social Security Administration office to secure necessary documentation for employment. 

The total number of international students sponsored by Whitman College is now 177 and this includes 16 recent alumni participating in the Optional Practical Training program in various location in the United States. We continue to provide wraparound support for international students and every Thursday at 4pm, many gather at the Glover Alston Center for advising meetings (and snacks) with Greg Lecki, our Principal Designated School Official. 

Religious and Spiritual Life

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) coordinated the interactive installation, Tapestry of Journeys, that was exhibited in the Stevens Gallery at the start of the semester. The exhibit encouraged people to reflect on their journey and consider what grounds them and makes them whole. RSL has also been planning a series of regular weekly programs, including a regular space focused on grief and “Big Tent” gatherings that seek to bring together community members who share a religious, non-religious, or spiritual identity. The Big Tent program engages a different religious/spiritual tradition each week. 

Our Interfaith Chaplain, Adam Kirtley, has been engaging with new and continuing students, helping them process grief, explore existential questions, and advocating for students from underrepresented religious communities. The RSL team has also been hard at work preparing the year’s first edition of Around the Table, a monthly digital publication featuring contributions from Whitman’s richly diverse religious and spiritual communities. The forthcoming issue includes a reflection and performance by third year student, Myan Sudharsanan - an accomplished percussionist using the Mridangam, a South Indian classical drum in the Carnatic music system. 

Intercultural Center

The Intercultural Center (IC) is continuing to develop and grow the Inclusion Fellows Program. Piloted by the IC for the first time last year, Inclusion Fellows are recruited, trained and work collaboratively to create equitable and inclusive spaces, contribute to the development of platforms for justice, and advance the mission and goals of the IC and the College. The seven Inclusion Fellows for 2021-22 include three returners from last year: Aziz Sahbazovic as the LGBTQIA+ Fellow; Elisa Colon, Students of Color Network; and Merry Cockroft, Religious & Spiritual Life. Joining Aziz, Elisa, and Merry are Marian Sandoval Lemus, International Student & GAC Support; Tatiana Villegas, First Gen & Mentoring; Lydia Moriku, Belonging & Support; and Marina Balasanyan, Creative Projects. 

The Inclusion Fellows have assisted with a number of projects and initiatives including the Fly Peer Mentoring Program, Summer Fly-In Reunion, RSL Labyrinth Rock Painting event, International Student BBQ, and more. With the support of the Director of the IC, Laura Sanchez, Inclusion Fellows are working on a Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month celebration in October and the David Nord Award Dinner. The award dinner celebrates the contributions and legacy of David Nord ‘83 and acknowledges the support of the award selection committee and advisors. The event also serves as a space to learn more about the 2021 award recipient, Sara Little, and her project on queer ecology. IC Director Sanchez is also co-teaching the Outdoor for All course SSRA 208 with OP Director Brian Sheedy.   

The IC has been working on the support and development of our diversity clubs and affinity groups. This past Friday the IC organized a meet and eat luncheon for student leaders involved in the BSU, WASA, Club Latinx, Women of Color Voices, and other groups to connect with visiting legal scholars Michele Storms, JD, Executive Director of the ACLU-WA and Marc-Tizoc González, JD, Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico (special thanks to Professor Jack Jackson for the assist). Additional opportunities for IC student organizations and leaders are in development, including a program with Dr. Adina Scott. Dr. Scott is a scientist at Palmer Station, the only U.S. research station in Antarctica and a member of the Full Circle Everest Expedition, a group of climbers seeking to be the first all-Black team to attempt to summit the highest mountain on earth. 

Division of Diversity and Inclusion

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion is working through the transition of the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI), Dr. John Johnson. The new VPDI has initiated an outreach strategy and is on a relationship building tour. Individual meetings with the VPDI and several campus and community stakeholders have been completed and more are scheduled over the next several weeks. The VPDI has convened the Whitman Inclusion Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE) and also collaborated with Communications to provide increased transparency of Division activities as well as providing access to additional tools and resource for continued DEIA education through the weekly D&I Whitman Today entries.

The VPDI has provided formal diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism (DEIA) dialogue sessions to a number of college departments and areas including the ASWC Board, Registrar’s Office, SEC staff, and FYS instructors. In addition to the formal DEIA dialogues, the VPDI has provided presentations for family orientation and the President’s Advisory Board and has also participated in DEIA consultations with a number of entities including Human Resources, the Faculty Personnel Committee, Admissions, and faculty leading upcoming tenure-track searches. The VPDI has also participated in the resolution of two bias incidents submitted through the bias incident reporting system which will be anonymized and posted on the website.

Last month, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion initiated a search for a Director of Equity & Compliance/Title IX Coordinator. The person selected for this role will be responsible for coordinating compliance with federal and state discrimination, harassment and retaliation laws and related College policies, including those related to sexual and gender-based misconduct and identity-based harassment and discrimination. The Division also recently initiated a search for a new Executive Assistant to the VPDI following the transition of the previous Executive Assistant, Monica Chapman, to a new role on campus. 

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