University restructures its Diversity and Inclusion Committee
At a time when issues of race, diversity, and inclusion have dominated the news cycle across the nation during 2020, the University found itself with an opportune time to re-assess its own progress and commitment towards a diverse and inclusive campus. To ensure that The Woods is on track and reaching all its goals in this critically important area, President Jahnae Barnett appointed a new group of faculty and staff for a newly restructured Diversity and Inclusion Committee on Campus during the year.
The head of the committee is Social Work Professor Dr. Elizabeth Wilson, who was honored to be asked by Dr. Barnett to chair the committee for the restructuring. Wilson is in charge of organizing of this important group on campus that meets every other week.
“As a social worker and longtime professor, I believe whole heartedly that diversity is a strength of an organization,” said Wilson. “I want to help foster a safe and welcoming environment for all students and employees to learn work and live.”
The committee has been in existence for some time, and Wilson and current members are working to reconfigure it. The members on the committee were selected through an application process, and consist of faculty members and individuals from the the Diversity and Inclusion office, Office of Disability Services, athletics, and Admissions.
“Members were then selected based on interest and unique experiences,” Wilson said. “The re-structured committee is different in that we have double the number of members and we have members from all areas of campus with a variety of experience in working with diversity goals and campus programming.”
Members of the committee are advocates for students and who can lead discussions. During a typical meeting the group reviews campus policies, the community code, campus websites, and LEAD offerings as opportunities to increase and improve diverse offerings and support existing programs on campus.
Darianne Maclin, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at WWU believes the group will be a big help to her office with programing and to further the campus mission. She finds it important to have a diversity and inclusion committee because it is a safe place to discuss a variety of issues brought up from the campus community that needs to be focused on with a group of people who represent different areas of campus.
“It is important to have an active committee that is coming together by choice to listen to our students needs and to be the people they can go to on campus.” Maclin said. “Knowing it is more than a single person in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is awesome. There is an entire team from diverse and different backgrounds and areas of campus that are here to meet those needs of students. I recognize how important and valuable that is and how grateful I am to have a team to do that with.”
The perspective of persons of color on the committee is critical. Thomas Trice, Associate Professor and MBA program manager explained that African American committee members are instrumental in helping facilitate discussions from personal, intellectual, and professional experiences. He grew up as a young man in a community that was majority one race and moved to a community that was majority of another race.
“It is important to have a person like myself as another way to come full circle and close the loop on a committee that all the people who are on it are striving for equality,” Trice said. “The committee members are trying to find the best ways to make sure our campus community is unified in knowing that no matter what your nationality, your race, ethnicity, gender or whatever group one associates with is welcomed and not ostracized.”
Striving for the best possible welcoming and inclusive environment at The Woods is what the newly restructured committee will be looking to inspire, while meeting in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous plea:
“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”
Diversity and Inclusion Committee members
Elizabeth Wilson – Chair (Faculty)
Darianne Maclin (Diversity and Inclusion Office)
Travis Tamerius (University Chaplain)
Scott Zimmerman (Faculty, Mo Gold Program)
Charles Belt (Men’s Athletics)
Rachel Turney (Faculty)
Nicole Elliot (Admissions)
Melissa Alpers-Springer (Faculty)
Hannah Bolados (Faculty)
Nathan Mason (Men’s Athletics)
Thomas Trice (Graduate Faculty)
Gayle Lampe (Professor Emeritus)
Kaleigh Roop (Women’s Athletics)
Joshua Turkewitz (Faculty)