It’s been a busy year for Chief Diversity Officer, Jeff King, and Director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism, Frank Dobson Jr.
Since entering their new positions this year, they have helped increase the presence of student diversity initiatives by co-sponsoring programs like the Black Excellence Ball and the Black Poetry Open-Mic Night.
“All we're doing is really just setting up the students to succeed,” King said. “The Black Excellence Ball, and all these kinds of things—the spoken word program—these are things that students start to do on their own, which is a way it should come organically like that.”
While the Black Student Union organized the Black Excellence Ball earlier this semester in conjunction with King and Dobson Jr., president of the BSU, Nimco Awil said that its success stemmed from the student’s initiative and drive to organize the event.
“When you put things in your own hands, you can make it as great as you want it to be,” Awil said. “With any of the events, especially with the Black Excellence Ball, we took it within our own hands, we had a vision, we created it, we made it come to life.”
King and Dobson Jr. continue to develop programming to increase the sense of belonging among students and faculty. Some of these efforts include leading discussions on language usage in the classroom with the Center for Teaching and Learning, working with the Black Student-Athlete Union to improve the sense of community for student-athletes of color, and restarting the Harambe student publication with the library.
“I think one of the things we're trying to do is, and this is sort of my mantra, is how do we create a sense of community where we celebrate these differences and don't see them as things that divide us,” Dobson Jr. said.
According to King, these efforts are leading to a better climate for inclusivity on campus.
“I would say that I think what we're doing is gaining traction, I won't go as far as to say it is a resounding success," he said. "There's a ton of work to be done, but we feel like it's doing what we wanted to do. And the way I like to look at things is that what we're building here will be measured in decades, not semesters.”
Awil believes that student-led initiatives are also improving the climate on campus.
“I think [the climate is] getting better because the students are taking it into their own hands. I think it’s getting better because we are those that are reaching out and making sure our students of color are involved on campus, involved with our organizations.”