President Kim Appoints 2016-17 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

President Kim and Dean Ozuzu. Photos: Jacob Boll '12 and Phil Dembinski '08
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is comprised of individuals whose experience and expertise ensure a wide range of perspectives will be brought to bear in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia College Chicago.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is comprised of individuals whose experience and expertise ensure a wide range of perspectives will be brought to bear in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia College Chicago. The committee is a working group, one of whose key charges is to develop partnerships with experts and practitioners in our community; the committee’s primary focus on systemic and global issues will be continuously informed by the deeper, more focused work of those partners. Ultimately, the purpose of the committee is to help us embed our commitment to valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the college’s curriculum, programming, operations, built environment, and institutional culture. The committee reports to President Kim and is chaired by Dean Onye Ozuzu.

  • Peter Carpenter

    Peter Carpenter, Ph.D.
    Interim Chair, Theatre and Dance
    Associate Professor, Dance

    My professional experience with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion began early in my choreographic career when I was drawn to performance as an agent for political engagement. I began making dances in 1992, as friends and mentors of mine were dying of AIDS. Early works valued confrontation, grief, and stigmatized isolation. I intended to make audiences face their own prejudices and to codify themes that I saw expressed in protests—against AIDS (via ACT-UP), homophobia (via Queer Nation), reproductive freedom (via WAC) and the 1991 Gulf War—into aesthetic forms compatible with the concert stage. I found resonance in the following precursors: performance works by Bill T. Jones, Ron Athey and Diamanda Galas; writing and visual art by David Wojnarovicz; early dance films by DV8 and other artists working at the darker edges of the aesthetic spectrum in pursuit of a radical and/or queer politic. I saw these tactics as the most immediate and resonant tools with which to disturb business as usual.

    Today, I still shape my body of work around contours of power and privilege, though I look for more opportunities to bring light and air into the substance of my dances. Since 2005 I've shifted from overtly addressing issues of gender and sexuality. Instead, I've been using queer frames to bring subversive perspectives to economies and broader themes of equity. In this, I also look to interrogate my own hierarchical values, bourgeois dispositions, and prejudicial assumptions while simultaneously bringing these discourses to the classroom. Throughout my pedagogy—in both studio and classroom teaching—I use dance studies and choreography as a mechanism through which to understand conventions of access, power, hierarchy, and mobility within frameworks of race, gender, sexuality and class. 

     My work on curriculum and policy within the dance department has been critical to my current professional identity and bears some rehearsal here. I have worked within, and at moments led, a team of dance faculty fervently working to make its programs more inclusive and equitable, particularly around issues of race but inclusive of issues of class, gender and sexuality. This has involved work that is at once introspective and rigorous, painful and liberating. Under Onye Ozuzu’s leadership, we have brought in numerous consultants and have reexamined business as usual to make equity and inclusiveness more possible within our department. The changes have ranged from the curricular (recalibrating the value of West African technique within graduation requirements) to the programmatic (curating a hip hop focused festival each semester), and from policy (bringing more flexibility in the excused absence policy to allow for complex life events) to operations (recognizing the inherent racism of gatekeeping within institutions). Throughout these interventions, we have had to recognize our own biases and prejudice. And as a white person I have wrestled with—and continuously worked to dismantle—internalized, racially constructed entitlement, while simultaneously helping other white people who are new to processing the inherent racism of whiteness.   

    I would be happy to bring my experience in diversity, equity and inclusion to this committee if it would be helpful. 

  • Stephen Chaney

    Stephen Chaney
    Class of 2018
    Design Management Major

    My father was raised in a community that didn’t accept his culture. Forty years of continued fight for who he is he has instilled in me a need for understanding. The obligation of a people is to each other. Since before the country was founded, this has been threatened. I believe there now is an opportunity to protect those long subjugated and liberate ourselves from the systems that have kept such a practice in place. 

    I recognize that I have been afforded a great many things, the most valuable is empathy. Although I am only 20 now, I would argue my cultural understanding is mature enough to recognize the root causes of what keeps the nation in such a veiled stagnation. I grew up neither a full member of black or white communities but instead in ones mixed race and Hispanic peoples. This has given me a degree of objectivity when it comes to the relationship between the two major players. Along with my untaught cultural education I have begun educating myself through those who came before me. Purposeful conversation, study of great cultural leaders and continuation of my international awareness all help build my understanding of the efforts needed. 

    Tangibly, I have won the African American Youth Achievement Award, was a part of the National Young Leaders State Conference, both the High School and National Honors Societies, President of the International Student Organization for two years, and Student Representative to the Undoing Racism Workshop this year. 

    I hope that my application is seriously considered as I can as assure that I will approach the position with purposeful intent. 

  • Precious Davis

    Precious Davis
    Assistant Director of Diversity Recruitment
    Undergraduate Admissions Office

    I count it an honor to be lauded as a national award-winning diversity professional, social justice facilitator, and keynote speaker. I am an alum of Columbia and received a B.A. in Liberal Education and Musical Theatre. I currently implement and oversee the Campus-Wide Diversity Recruitment Initiative and am the first Trans woman of color to hold this position.

    I envision a society that is strengthened by diversity, inclusion, respect and justice for all people. Before my tenure at Columbia I served for three years as the Youth Outreach Coordinator at the midwest’s largest LGBTQ community center, Center on Halsted. My work at the Center on Halsted involved and coordinated youth community outreach & programming surrounding HIV prevention, Transgender advocacy and LGBTQ leadership development. Under my tenure I launched and coordinated a 1.6 million CDC grant which provided outreach, education, and testing services to more than 3000 young African American and Latino MSM between the ages of 13 and 29 across the Chicago area.

    I find deep meaning in engaging individuals in conversations surrounding bias, bigotry, and prejudice in their communities on the basis and belief that humans can coexist with one another positively. It is my belief that through embracing difference and celebrating the uniqueness that lives within us all, we each can be change agents in society. With more than 15 years experience in creating educational programs that raise awareness, foster leadership and encourage advocacy for a just and inclusive world, I also am a highly demanded keynote speaker and panelist who has been featured at: The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The University of Michigan, James Madison University, and The Chicago School for Professional Psychology.

    I am suited to serve on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee as a mission-driven social justice visionary and leader who believes in developing and enhancing the skills of others through implementing well-researched programs that empower others to break down stereotypes due to a lack of cultural competency and cultural sensitivity. The proper training, experience, and worldview is needed to educate our community for which to engage various types of diversity (ability, faith, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, beliefs, traditions, etc.). As an agent of inclusion I am known for my remarkable presence and ability to examine and break down that which divides the human relations process. I believe my appointment to the DEI committee will shape the future of our institution to have a positive effect through the enactment of creating campus wide-change, positive self-awareness, as well as creating an inclusive atmosphere that fosters community for us all.

  • Ramona Gupta

    Ramona Gupta
    Coordinator, Asian American Cultural Affairs
    Multicultural Affairs Office

    It is my pleasure to submit this letter of interest for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at Columbia College Chicago. I am an experienced program director and social justice educator with a passion for helping people develop culturally competent leadership skills. The work I have done at Columbia, combined with my experience working with Chicago’s diverse communities, allows me to bring a unique perspective to the committee.

    As you will see on my resume, I have years of experience developing programs and services for and with historically underrepresented populations. Much of my work in the Multicultural Affairs office at Columbia has involved assessing the campus climate around issues of diversity and developing programs that create more inclusive spaces both inside and outside the classroom. One of the key initiatives I designed is the One Tribe Scholars program, which engaged students in understanding their own identities and exploring DEI issues on campus and globally. The majority of the students who participated in the Scholars program or in their weekly workshops cited it as a transformative experience that helped them envision a more just world.

    I put these same ideas into practice through the creation and management of a leadership development program for the Multicultural Affairs office's undergraduate student employees, which has resulted in a more cohesive and invested team who are able to articulate pluralistic ideals and engage in anti-oppressive practices. I have also worked closely with student leaders and the Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence to design Practicing Diversity, a workshop series that engaged faculty, staff, and students in working together to make the college more equitable and inclusive. It was the only campus space that brought together these diverse populations for such a purpose.

    I have a long history of experience with developing initiatives for and with students and multicultural communities. The work of the DEI Committee is a natural extension of these efforts for me. As a member of the Multicultural Affairs staff, I connect daily with the multitude of students who engage with our office. I am in touch with their experiences and needs, and they know I would be sure to bring their voices to the table. Similarly, I am in constant dialogue with faculty and staff colleagues at Columbia and across the country about the latest DEI issues affecting our campuses, including how to work in ways that celebrate and uplift our communities instead of always working from a deficit model. Everything I do is infused with the ideals of equity and inclusion, and I believe Columbia has the potential to be a model institution in this area. Our campus is, as a whole, more progressive than most, which gives us the ability to more deeply embed just values here. The possibilities are very exciting.

    If chosen for the DEI Committee, I would bring a passion for developing strong practices around equity and inclusion and fierce advocacy on behalf of student needs. I am deeply committed to excellence and lifting up all members of the Columbia community. I would be honored to join the DEI Committee and work together to make Columbia a national leader in equity and inclusion practices.

  • Elio Leturia

    Elio Leturia
    Associate Professor
    Communication and Media Innovation

    Humans tend to focus more on their differences than their similarities. By establishing our commonalities we can predict the possible outcome of our behaviors, which serves as a defense mechanism. As social beings, we all have a need to belong, to be part of a nucleus that shares our beliefs, values and customs. That’s why embracing diversity is so challenging.

    But research keeps indicating that when we work in a diverse environment we tend to make more sound decisions. A recent study discussed in a NYT editorial suggests “that racial and ethnic diversity matter for learning, the core purpose of a university. Increasing diversity is not only a way to let the historically disadvantaged into college, but also to promote sharper thinking for everyone.” And sharper thinking translates into better recruitment and retention.

    I became a minority 21 years ago when I relocated to the U.S. All of a sudden I was a “person of color,” a label I never had before. The transition to become an “American” is ongoing. I am reminded daily by people’s actions and reactions, within the circles where I work and live, that I look different, speak with an accent, have other values and evaluate life in a way that follows those personal different values.

    During these years I had taken a deep introspective look into my role in social life, from being part of the dominant group in my native country, Peru, where I was born with the privilege of middle-class and lighter skin, a solid educational background and social position, to a “Latino” or “Hispanic,” terms that I had never been called before, and could be associated with uneducated immigrants in this country.

    This change of position made me realize that I had moved from oppressor to oppressed, placing me on the other side of the spectrum. This situation gave me the chance to analyze closely the racist, sexist and classist values I had been raised with and learned not only from my family but society. Thanks to being a witness of my own experience I have been able to work on changing my own perceptions and fighting racism, and all the other “isms,” which has become part of my daily routine.

    This personal journey has pushed me into finding my new place in society and to rediscover myself in this so-called “melting pot.” In 1997, while working at the Detroit Free Press newspaper, I approached the managing editor and told him about the existence of “Hispanic Heritage Month,” established by law in 1988. My goal was to acknowledge the presence of people of Latin American origin in our coverage. Out of 300 employees in the newsroom, there were only six Hispanics, and not all spoke or wrote Spanish.

    Despite not being hired as a reporter but a designer, I started pitching story ideas on the Latino community. By then I had extensive design experience but I had to prove myself as a writer in English—a “foreign” language. My colleagues were not convinced I could write. After publishing short reviews, I eventually became the only designer in the newsroom who would regularly contribute stories. I clearly remember the day when an editor emailed me asking, “What do you have for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month”? Until I left the paper in 2005 I had written op-ed columns (my first one was “Don’t let the terror, death make you numb” on the Free Press a few days after September 11, 2001, explaining that terrorism was not an “Arab” issue,) as well as music and restaurant reviews, lifestyle, travel and food stories for the features front pages. In 2004 I was presented with the Print/Design Award by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) for a story “Trivial Pursuit: Hispanic Edition” I wrote and designed.

    But my work in educating my colleagues went beyond my writing. I worked specifically on sharing my “Latino” experience, so when someone would make an ignorant remark, instead of getting offended (or angry, as some others do) I would use humor to educate. To cite an example: When a coworker asked me: “Elio, when is Cinco de Mayo?” I responded with a smile: “It’s the Fourth of July.” I didn’t want my colleagues to be scared to ask if I were to say, “Why do you ask me? I am not Mexican!”

    When I started teaching journalism at Columbia College, I realized I was surrounded by a big white, blue-eyed majority that didn’t equitably represent the student body. My colleagues used the word “diversity” regularly but the actions didn’t reflect the words. One of my biggest challenges was to demonstrate that despite being placed in the “Latino” bag, I actually was a foreigner from Peru who couldn’t think as an American—despite becoming a citizen in 2007. Those were years of extreme isolation that turned out to be more bearable when my colleague Teresa Puente (a third-generation American of Mexican heritage) was hired. It was clear to me that we were very different (I was not raised with U.S. mindset) but the fact that she had lived in Latin America made the process more viable.

    In 2006 Puente and I co-founded the Hispanic Journalists of Columbia student organization (HJC) where I am still a mentor, to give Hispanic students a space to flourish and grow. I got closely involved with NAHJ, becoming a member of the organizing committee for the conventions in Fort Lauderdale (2006,) San Jose (2007) and Puerto Rico (2009.) I have mentored students in both HJC and the Latino Alliance here at Columbia. I have been taking students to the national conventions ever since, the last one in September 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

    During my first two years at our college I had 18 stories published in HOY newspaper, the main daily in Spanish in Chicago, and seven in the RedEye after convincing its managing editor that the tabloid lacked a “Latino” voice. I continue writing about diversity issues for The Huffington Post in both English and Spanish. In 2010 Puente and I adapted the Travel Writing journalism course to go to Peru taking 13 students. This experience was repeated in 2014 with 15 students. A total of 37 stories produced during those courses were published in the Wanderer magazine (designed by my Visual Journalism students) offering all of them a portfolio piece. Similarly, other editions of Wanderer have featured 25 international Columbia College faculty members, and 14 international students, offering the college community another element that showcased diversity.

    I have taught Reporting for the Spanish News Media in 2010, 2012 and 2014. To give students the opportunity to have their work published, I created the website. During the last two offerings of this course, 20 students had 46 stories in Spanish printed by the professional media, which is a record in our journalism program. This course is scheduled to run this Spring 2016. In July 2014, for the Stony Brook University Latino News-Oriented Literacy program (sponsored by the McCormick Foundation) I produced the “What do Latinos Look Like? video to show that Latinos come in all colors, sizes and races. This was used as an educational tool in the First Year Seminar program at Columbia College. Also last year, I completed the documentary “Tita Turns 100,” the story of a centennial double-immigrant who was born in Spain in 1913, formed a family in Argentina and became an American citizen last year, the day she turned 102 years old.

    Since 2009 I have been working with Aguijón Theater, the oldest Spanish theater company in Chicago and have participated in five full-season plays, enriching the cultural lives of bilingual Chicagoans. Internationally speaking, since 2008 I have been a board member —and two years as its president— of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association. This organization serves the Fulbright alumni, and the Fulbright students and scholars who come from over 100 countries in the world. In 2013 the National Fulbright Association in D.C. invited me to be a panelist on women’s leadership in “The Missing Voice on Gender Equality: Time for Men to Speak Up,” that was introduced by Sheryl Sandberg. The same year the Chicago Chapter presented me with the Dee Sarelas Service Award for “the significant impact on the development of internationalism for the Fulbright Association and the Chicagoland community.”

    Besides local and national speaking commitments on diversity, I have presented at conferences in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Peru, Spain and Chile, besides Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Singapore and the UK, which have given me the chance to exchange ideas about American society and education with people from those countries. My role as a diverse voice is not confined to the U.S.

    Promoting diversity is daily work. Including everybody takes us outside of our comfort zones. Giving opportunity to all pushes us to become more accepting of others. I am a firm believer that by actively sharing our knowledge we can understand each other better, and work continuously going beyond all of our differences. It’s not only the fair thing to do, but the smart one as well.

  • Charles Long

    Charles Long
    MFA Candidate ’18
    Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts

    I have had the privilege and honor in my life of working both professionally and personally with Black, LGBTQ and formerly homeless folk (just to name a few) who are often times in the margins of our larger society. My work has been and remains about bringing issues that impact vulnerable populations to the forefront in an effort to garner the rights that as humans we should all be afforded. I have worked locally, nationally and internationally with people working to impact the human condition and this work has been most successful when broad coalitions come together to use their collective power to impact change.

    From my work at VOCAL-NY based in Brooklyn, to my national action work with Greenpeace/USA or my current work with the Movement for Black Lives, I have carried a duty to righting the ship that is our shared future so that an inclusive tomorrow exist. One where we backup our commitment to words like diversity and inclusivity with actions and behaviors that embody them, while avoiding the pitfalls of simply providing lip service. I believe in a world in which we live in our truths as much as we can, not always getting it right the first time but standing firm in our commitment to getting there over time.

    In my art practice I find myself leaning on the lessons learned earlier in my life to bring to bare my own experiences as a Black queer freedom fighter and translate them into works that speak to others who have lived on the margins of our society. It is my hope that my makings will serve as a visual tools to organize folks towards their own liberation and serve as an envisioning space as to what is possible in the future. Art has an amazing power to draw people into lanes of thoughts that stretch the concepts of what they even have imagined possible and allows us to think in color about tomorrows we dare to dream up.

    Doing the work of creating new/never imagined spaces is worthy yet challenging, but I believe that overall the worth to living as complete mentally and physically free people is a goal worth reaching.

  • Raquel "Rocky" Monroe

    Raquel “Rocky” Monroe, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor

    My teaching, service, and modes of inquiry—scholarship, performance, and curatorial practice, evidence my desire to collaborate with students and colleagues to undo systems of oppression, and create space for all to enact their passions in ways that positively reverberate through and beyond their selected communities.

    In dance studies, the diverse methodologies I employ to engender genuine discourse and assess learning aligns with the college’s mission to educate students “who will author the culture of their times.” My primary objective in all of my classes is to encourage students to first know that the frameworks that constitute their identities, greatly influence their beliefs and values, not only about dancing bodies, but all bodies moving through space. I want students to be intelligent artists and scholars who approach their work with the knowledge of cultural traditions and the fire for thoughtful innovation. In 2015, my efforts were acknowledged with the Columbia College Chicago Excellence in Teaching award.

    My publications and current book project, Black Girl Work: Popular Culture, Sex, and the Dancing Body reflect my efforts to integrate my teaching and scholarship to reach audiences invested in the efficacy of art to interrogate systems of oppression and incite infrastructural change. My 2011 article for the Journal of Pan African Studies, “’I Don’t Want to Do African. . . What About My Technique?’ Transforming Dancing Place into Spaces in the Academy” for example, is used in dance departments throughout the country to interrogate issues of diversity and inclusion in dance curricula. In 2014, I curated The Afro-Latin @ Summer Dance Intensive. The intensive further enhanced my profile as a leader in issues of diversity. I collaborated with community partners Latin Rhythms, a Latin dance studio in the West Loop, and Afri Caribe, a 501(c)3 organization in Humboldt Part that provides cultural events, to illuminate the influence of African culture on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The two-week gathering of scholars and artists from around the world introduced Columbia to academic, and artistic, circles from where we have been decidedly absent.

    My service to the college and field mirror my commitment to equity and justice in higher education. I currently serve as an SFPA representative to the Faculty Senate, where I am a member of the Academic Affairs Committee. And as one of the instructors for the first year “Big Chicago” courses, I enthusiastically serve on the Integrated First-Year Experience Committee. As a dance and performance scholar, I sit on the two prominent international boards that serve the field—The Society of Dance History Scholars, and the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. I have committed my entire career to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and welcome the opportunity to work alongside colleagues equally committed to infrastructural change.

  • Onye Ozuzu

    Onye Ozuzu
    School of Fine and Performing Arts


    My “expertise” in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion is grounded in my creative practice as a performing artist and composer. I have dedicated much of my work as a dancer to cultivating space for diverse dance forms to exist in pluralist relationship to one another. In my body I have negotiated the inter-sectionality between many movement forms from tennis to ballet, West African dance to Hatha Yoga, freestyle House to salsa, contemporary dance to Aikido. As an improviser I have developed my “voice” in the competitive and sharing circles of club dancing in the ’80s and ’90s, in vibrant salsa dance halls, in the highly nuanced and exacting stylistic and rhythmic scores of West African dance, in the formal structures of postmodern conceptual frameworks, and in the revealing scenario of combat offered by martial arts. Within the community of arts educators and practitioners, I have worked steadily over the course of my career towards the development of language and methodologies to forge sustainable structures for complex diversity to thrive in shared spaces.

    I honor cross and intercultural explorations that are detailed enough to recognize the workings of things, deeper than aesthetics. I house the dance styles of many diverse aesthetic vocabularies in my body and that wealth of embodied information is a resource upon which I draw continually. Rather than just “collecting” these dance styles, I have cultivated the ability to make choices in my embodied practice. When I move, I make honed decisions among many diverse techniques with an intention to access a purposefully hybridized aesthetic.

    For the last seven years, I have been cultivating an artistic practice I’ve termed “The Technology of the Circle” (TOTC) that explores the circle as a structure for improvised group interaction: the circle of playground fights, of Brazilian Capoeira, of Jazz music, of B-boying/B-girling, of club culture cyphering and battling, of the swirling interaction of Aikido’s uke and tori, of a salsa couple, and of contact improvisation. The intended objective of the “TOTC” process is the crafting of layered, powerful, individual and embodied collaborative action. The circle serves as a structure for groups marked by difference (as all groups are) to share a center in order to offer participants the opportunity to cultivate a group awareness. I use the “TOTC” process to offer disparate dance communities a method to learn and share experiences. I work with participants who often represent various types of improvisational practice, which also represent cultural particularities that reflect difference in age, gender, body, ability, sex, race, existential assumption, philosophy, value, purpose, etc. Through the process of building an improvisational container that they can share, participants are compelled to recognize the commonalities and differences inherent in their forms. Furthermore, participants have the opportunity to hone and shape that improvisational container into a “local” culture, one moves beyond mere recognition of commonalities and differences, one that can support rich, detailed communication and action among them.

    Systems Change

    Before coming to Columbia College Chicago, I worked for eleven years at CU-Boulder. I earned the rank of Associate Professor at that institution and served for two years as the Director of the Dance program within the Department of Theatre and Dance. My administrative work there was notable for a balance of visionary and deliberate progress in the arenas of curricular, artistic, and systemic diversity, cultural relativity, collaboration and inter-disciplinarity. I was central to a seven-year re-envisioning process that resulted in a radical overhaul of the departmental mission and curriculum with particular attention to a deep and sustainable integration of diversity, inter-disciplinary studies, and technology. We did not only revise the academic curricula; we also innovated department administrative policy, operations protocol, and indeed the culture of the program itself, in order to support the pluralistic approach to numerous forms of diversity, particularly racial, cultural, disciplinary and technological, that we had determined were necessary in order to manifest the curricular design that we had envisioned. For the successful change processes within which I emerged as a leader at CU-Boulder, I was awarded the Diversity Service Recognition Award presented by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee of Minority Affairs as well as the President’s Diversity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Diversity presented by the President of the University of Colorado’s 4-campus system. It was also as a result of the role that I played in the transformation of the department that I was approached by the full-time faculty and invited to take on the Director role.

    While a majority of my training has favored a systems-based power analysis with race as the focus, I have also begun work in gender and sexuality systems analysis as well as in the realm of diverse abilities. I believe both in the importance of distinct attention and analysis with respect to various “types” of diversity as well as attention to the many ways that inter-sections between these types inform and complex our perspectives, experiences and our systems’ functionalities.

    I came to Columbia College because I wanted to be part of an educational institution where access and curriculum were being leveraged in favor of an engaged diversity, the arts/creative practices, and students who could and would become change agents in the world around them. I had served in a place where engaging in such work was a question of getting people on board. The questions in the arena of aligning curriculum with diversity goals, for instance, were questions of “why?” I wanted to be in a place where the questions being asked at the highest levels were “how?” and “when?” Now in my 5th year at Columbia College, I am satisfied that I made the right choice. I am looking forward to working with and learning from my colleagues in the context of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee.

  • Rosita Sands

    Rosita M. Sands, Ph.D.
    Chair and Professor
    Interim Director, Center for Black Music Research

    The goal, articulated in the College’s Strategic Plan, “to become known as a national leader in higher education for our systemic and comprehensive commitment to diversity and inclusion as a fundamental basis for accomplishing our mission,” is both lofty and laudable. I am pleased to nominate myself for service on this committee and to offer, for your consideration, this statement of my experience and expertise as it relates to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    I have 15+ years of college-level experience prior to joining Columbia, which includes teaching and administrative experience at an historically black college and university (HBCU); a small, private, Christian institution in Kentucky; public, state institutions on the West and East Coast; and as an adjunct faculty member at Berklee College of Music and Chapman University. At each of those institutions, I had the opportunity to design curriculum and courses that examine the music and arts of diverse groups of people, across provenances, time periods, and regions of the world and I assisted students in understanding that quality music, worthy of study, is not the domain of any single culture or group, but rather exists across diverse genres and styles. Such coursework can serve a powerful role in engendering a deeper understanding of the connections and commonalities shared across peoples and cultures, which, I believe, leads to an appreciation of the value of inclusion and an understanding of the pluralistic contributions to our global society.

    My approach has not been to focus heavily on theory or philosophy but rather to incorporate materials that are representative of a diverse body of music and related arts as part of the core repertoire that we study, so that students learn about diverse repertoires of music through authentic experiences with the music. Through these experiences students hear that all music is composed of the same musical elements, only manipulated and treated according to different aesthetic norms, preferences, and practices. Students experience that there are different ways of seeing and being in the world, and encounter the myriad ways that people have negotiated their personal and communally-shared circumstances. Such study and close examination leads us to confronting the dynamics that influence and create these situations, which leads us to discussions of gender, race, culture, colonialism, and enslavement, to name a few of the topics that arise.

    While my training is primarily in the area of music education, my professional practice and teaching have spanned both music education and ethnomusicology, culminating in a focus on multicultural music education and, specifically, pedagogy of music of the African Diaspora. Prior to joining the Music Department faculty, I served as Director of the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) and its remote site, the Adams Music Research Institute in the US Virgin Islands, where the work we produced was centered on music of the Caribbean. My work during this period included teacher workshops and educational programming for school audiences – all focused on presentation of musics that were typically underrepresented in educational programming.

    My research and creative activity align with and support the work that has been the main focus of my professional practice – the pedagogy of musics of the African Diaspora and the integral inclusion of this diverse body of music in all areas and levels of the curriculum. If you feel that I may be of service in contributing to the work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, I hope that you will call on me.

  • Matthew Shenoda

    Matthew Shenoda
    Interim Chair, Art and Art History
    Associate Professor, Creative Writing

    Please accept this self-nomination for the DEI committee. A brief summation of my skills as they relate to the work of the committee follows, which I believe demonstrates my professional commitment to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    I began my academic career in the first College of Ethnic Studies in the country, where I taught courses on literature written by people of color, media representations of race and gender, and the history of structural racism in the United States, and I have been teaching in this vein for the last fifteen years. As my career progressed, I translated these skills to my administrative work and was appointed through a national search as the inaugural Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity at CalArts. In that capacity, I developed and implemented policy changes for faculty hiring practices and equity initiatives in order to increase faculty governance and representation across the institute. I also served on search committees with an aim to creating more diverse applicant pools and hires and consulted on curricular and programmatic development across schools. I worked extensively on student academic, disciplinary, and equity issues, ran several granting initiatives within the Institute aimed at increasing diversity, and founded and programmed Art, Justice, and Global Aesthetics: The Equity and Diversity Lecture Series.

    Furthermore, I have written and published extensively on issues of race and equity in the fields of creative writing, literature, and art. My approach has always been one of addressing and working to rectify structural issues with a nuanced and researched understanding of history and the core causes of inequity. My own work as a writer and editor has pushed the boundaries of these issues and has always focused on inclusion and expansion of literary canons, specifically as they relate to race. I have also worked to establish entities in my field that create new spaces for diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, I am a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund, an organization that works in partnership with others to publish and make accessible contemporary African poetry. We are the only entity of our kind in the English language, and we currently publish, in conjunction with the University of Nebraska Press, four new books of African poetry each year. I am also deeply engaged with scholars and cultural workers in the field who work on issues of race and equity and have served as an expert for media and film projects on various topics.

    I believe my professional history and continued work in these areas uniquely qualifies me to serve on the DEI committee, and I appreciate your consideration.

  • Fo Wilson

    Fo Wilson
    Associate Professor
    Art and Art History

    I am submitting my self-nomination to join the DEI committee for the college. From my research and creative practice, my professional work, and teaching, I can share significant experience working with structural barriers to equity for those that stand in disadvantaged positions. I know that institutions have to examine and address both the disadvantaged and advantaged sides of the equation to make any sustainable movement away from entrenched, systematic and often unconscious expressions of privilege that obstruct movement towards equity and greater diversity.

    I come from an entrepreneurial background with graduate-level training in progressive systems of management and understand that mining systematic and often unseen homophobia, racism, sexism, ageism and discrimination against physically-challenged individuals is something that takes decisive, humane and informed action, not just polite, politically correct talk.

    In my teaching in my particular discipline, I have invented courses that include curricular content for underrepresented groups not usually included or foregrounded in the history of art. I often contribute scholarly writing that contributes a critical reading of art and media, and my creative practice positions new narratives of women of color in particular in the Western historical canon.

    Professionally, I have served on several boards for art and design organizations and in those roles have made sure to represent a broad range of constituents. As one example, I participated in the AIGA’s (American Institute of Graphic Designers) initiative to bring more diversity to the design profession and contributed to a symposium where we brought in a diversity expert to help the organization look at why the profession is 98% white.

    This is a difficult and important undertaking. If this is what you want to do, and the institution is willing to put resources and a significant commitment behind it, I am with you.

  • Michelle Yates

    Michelle Yates
    Assistant Professor
    Humanities, History and Social Sciences

    My research and teaching is situated in the environmental humanities. In particular, my research and teaching takes an environmental justice perspective. Traditionally, environmental issues are thought of as affecting everyone, and while this may be true on some level, environmental issues do not affect everyone equally. In the United States, low-income communities, communities of color, and women disproportionately bear the burden of environmental pollution, and this is one of the things that I look at in my research on waste and garbage. While communities of color and/or low-income communities disproportionately bear the burden of environmental pollution, i.e. environmental racism, white and affluent communities have the privilege of not having waste and other polluting facilities sited in their neighborhoods.

    For example, a study done by Marianne Lavelle and Marcia Coy shows that white communities have the privilege of environmental regulatory agencies prioritizing their concerns around toxic wastes at the expense of the concerns of communities of color.

    Issues of environmental racism and justice also get represented in popular culture, (re)producing a kind of popular consciousness about who is responsible for the environment. In particular, I look at environmental discourses of race and gender in popular Hollywood films, like WALL-E (2008) and Interstellar (2014), and how these films are Edenic recovery narratives that reproduce a passive/active, nature/culture, female/male binary dichotomy. Like Edenic recovery narratives that historically justified European colonization of the Americas, these films place white men in the position of “heroic agent” taming “wild” nature and attempting to save humanity by recovering civilization via some semblance of pristine, Edenic nature. On the one hand, these narratives seemingly represent powerful environmentalist messages about the dangers posed by climate change. On the other hand, these narratives also draw on environmentalist discourses to re-inscribe hegemonic notions of race and gender, notions that are intimately linked to the very structures of power responsible for causing climate change, e.g. capitalism.

    All of my courses at Columbia are focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, from “Introduction to Cultural Studies” (which examines race, gender, sexuality, and other social categories as immanent to the study of everyday life) to “Urban Images in Film and Media” (which looks at the way race, gender, sexuality, and class are fundamentally intertwined with representations of the city). I bring a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective in to my classroom through course content as well as teaching texts by scholars, activists, and artists from diverse backgrounds. For example, “Nature and Environmentalism in U.S. Culture” explores the relationship between humans and the non-human natural world. Through Giovanna DiChiro’s essay “Nature As Community: The Convergence of Environment and Social Justice,” students learn why humans should be considered an important part of what constitutes the environment, and so the stories of marginalized communities, namely low-income and communities of color, many of whom disproportionately experience environmental pollution, can be incorporated into environmental activism. Drawing from Noel Sturgeon’s Environmentalism and Popular Culture, I challenge students to consider the ways in which “nature” is a cultural construct, as well as how images and discourses of nature are used ideologically to justify social inequalities around gender, race, class, sexuality, and (dis)ability.

    My service is also grounded in diversity. I am currently the Coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies minor. Last year, I co-founded and co-launched the Chicago Feminist Film Festival, a grassroots festival of predominantly short films featuring issues of gender, sexuality, and social justice often missing from mainstream media. I also advise students in the Cultural Studies major, many of whom are from communities and backgrounds under-represented in higher education.