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President Kim Appoints Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Photo: Phil Dembinski (BFA '08)Photo: Phil Dembinski (BFA '08)
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is comprised of individuals whose experience and expertise ensure a wide a 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.

Peter Carpenter

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. 

Ramona Gupta
Dear Dr. Kim:

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 engages faculty, staff, and students in working together to make the college more equitable and inclusive. It is the only campus space that brings 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.

Dr. Kim, 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.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jeffrey Howard

I am excited to hear about formation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. I am submitting my nomination to be considered for this committee.

During the past seven years at the University of Chicago I served as the founding director for the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Student Life. In those seven years, I developed and implemented a university-wide preferred name policy, created a strategic plan to increase support for LGBTQ students across the institution, and secured the university as a top 25 nationally ranked LGBTQ- friendly institution by Campus Pride. As a new member of the Columbia community, I am able to bring a fresh perspective and proven track record that will help the college achieve its strategic goal of providing a diverse and inclusive culture.

Establishing the Office of LGBTQ Student Life at the University of Chicago gave me the unique perspective of supporting LGBTQ students while building a new office. In developing the strategic goals and vision, I successfully developed over 50 programs each year, including orientation and graduation events, and developed the curriculum and implemented ally training workshops. I am especially proud of the development of allies in the larger university community, which were critical in creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students.

Building partnerships with student organizations, academic units, and offices across campus were critical to the success of LGBTQ Student Life. I served as a content advisor for all LGBTQ student organizations, provided guidance and offered support to ensure the success of these groups. I developed a close relationship with our academic counterpart, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. This relationship gave the office the support of faculty that is essential to creating a holistic student experience, both in the academic and co-curricular environments. As the content expert at the university, I centralized resources for LGBTQ students and provided assistance to faculty and staff in supporting these students.

Creating environments that support intersecting identities is also crucial to demonstrating a commitment to diversity. This work must be intentional in order to fight the systemic challenges facing members of campus communities. One example of this is the creation of a shared diversity student center for LGBTQ Student Life and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) at the University of Chicago. This center allowed students of all identities to feel a sense of belonging and support on the campus. Partnerships with OMSA also allowed me to develop programming that best supported LGBTQ students of color, a community that can often be difficult to reach due to concerns of being outed.

Having both attended graduate school and worked at Loyola University Chicago, I place great value on social justice, and in incorporating diverse viewpoints into the campus community. Loyola gave me a strong foundation in identity development theory, which is necessary in working with diverse populations. These theories have been central to the strategic development of policies and programming in my work.

I would enjoy the opportunity to join the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Serving on this committee would allow me the opportunity to continue my commitment and passion for social justice and the development of inclusive communities, particularly at Columbia.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Luther Hughes

Upon first arriving at Columbia College Chicago, I noticed one thing—Columbia is vastly diverse. However, integrated within its diversity, is the struggle for minorities to successfully navigate through this college; as a queer black boy from Seattle, this was a huge problem.

Columbia has continually given platforms to underrepresented communities throughout its course; allowing these communities the opportunity to speak out in new and contemporary ways. However, I think this new committee, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is something fresh. This committee will further dive into overlooked logistics, aspects, and processes seen inside and outside the classroom.

As President of Student Government Association, one of my goals this semester is Diversity, both academically and non-academically. I am eager to restructure curriculums, campus events, and resources, in order for different communities to feel at home, safe, and respected. It is important for all students to see someone like them inside and outside the classroom. It is important for all students to understand the difference between equality and equity. It is important for all students to understand the community around them, and the culturally artistic endeavors made in their career fields.

I hope to help students gain the knowledge to further educate others on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It cannot stop with one student.

-Luther Hughes

Elio Leturia

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 www.bancodevoces.info 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.

Kathleen Loftus

I am writing to nominate myself for your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. My vita is attached for your consideration. I believe my extensive background in the area of inclusion of students with disabilities in a broad range of academic and vocational settings with their non-disabled peers is a critical need of this committee.

Currently, I serve Columbia as a full-time faculty member in the Education department, where I have implemented and teach the 4-course sequence leading to the Learning Behavioral Specialist Endorsement (LBS1), allowing both our graduates and undergraduates to have this endorsement included on their Illinois teaching licenses. These courses devote significant instruction to identifying and developing means of including students with learning differences into the general education classroom, which is now the expectation for all teachers.

My background includes working with both students and adults with disabilities, as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, a special education administrator, and a State monitor of special education compliance, specifically addressing the extent to which Chicago Public Schools included their students with disabilities in mainstream classes and activities.

I also serve on the Executive Board of the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois, a branch of the national LDA, where I presented at their national conference earlier this year, and serve on a sub-committee of the Illinois Attorney General related to upholding the rights of students with disabilities in Illinois schools. As such, I strive to remain current regarding the latest legislation related to individuals with disabilities.

I believe Columbia has long been a "beacon of hope" for many students who learn differently, yet who bring numerous gifts and talents that are far superior to those of students at most more "traditional" colleges and universities. However, these differences are often accompanied by certain identified academic or emotional deficits, entitling them to special accommodations from their instructors.

In my current role as graduate and undergraduate instructor, perhaps because I teach courses on the subject of disabilities, I have had many struggling students admit their disabilities to me, while saying that they were either unaware of Columbia’s Special Needs services, or were under the impression that they would not qualify, when this may not always be the case.

I would be honored to be considered as a member of this committee, to help ensure that all of our students are provided the supports they require and deserve to reach their goals of graduating from our many programs.

Onye Ozuzu

Expertise

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.

Janet Pena-Davis

I was born in Chicago from a spit-fire combination of Cuban and African-American parents. Although I returned to college as an older student with children, I never forgot how hard the struggle was. As I often tried to escape from my ‘present’ in wonderful black and white movies, I couldn’t. As a Dreamer, I thought I could change the world through teaching.

As an English/Creative Writing teacher in a community in the midst of gentrification, I worked in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, and the toughest too! My classroom was like my family, a patchwork quilt: wide-eyed Mexicans, struggling to adapt to the cold winters in Chicago; Central American students representing every ethnic group, softly speaking Spanish and some not speaking at all; homegrown African-Americans juggling to keep their place and for added color, Ukrainian students desperately trying to fit in. Yet, in this unique classroom, we all meshed together like a puzzle.

My extremely challenging but rewarding job-then and now- is to guide my students on their journey to discover their individual Magic through reading and writing! At times this journey was incredibly bumpy when grammar seems totally unimportant in this age of rap lyrics; but music, poetry and even dance helps!

The poetry written by my Mexican students, struggling to adapt and forget the bodies buried along the way, would take your breath away. The lyrics my homegrown students wrote released the expression of pain that would have remained bottled up until it imploded; the spontaneous dance lessons from my Boricuas when none of us could take another subject/ irregular verb conjugation was a delight and need I say relief. Did I mention we laughed a lot?! On occasion, I knew this was the only way many of my students could make it through the day.

In the end, I have faith that I cleared some debris off life's road and offered the tools students need to make intelligent, informed and well-articulated choices, to think ‘outside the box’, no matter the gender, socio-economic level, ethnicity or race. Yet in order to be a more effective teacher, I have to often ratchet up my skill base. To accomplish this, I take a variety of classes to update and expand my skill base, to learn to read and write with my eyes and my brain unemotionally detached for analytical purposes as my heart leads the way.

My Teaching Style:
…is constantly changing to accommodate the needs, levels and interest of students. We all have different learning styles so in this new technological age, I often go with the flow- media moments- to find a tie in to the daily lesson. Many times in order to make sure that comprehension is achieved, I have to incorporate Performance. This motivates both reluctant readers and writers to move up to the next level and others to soar! I usually look for material that captivates male students – graphic novels- because for many of them, to read is lame. And did I mention humor? Having the ability to laugh at self without becoming sensitive and learn from that mistake is a lesson remembered. In my classes, we laugh a lot!

How Do I Measure Success?
…not just with ‘paper and pencil’ or test scores…although in this age of data driven instruction, of course testing is important. But success to me is often times as smile on a student’s face when the objective becomes clear; or with my reluctant second language learners who can listen and then illustrate the elements of fiction is an immediate measure of success. The light in a student’s eye keeps me motivated, but when I LEARN a different perspective from students who can substantiate their position, then I know I’m nurturing Thinkers and not just test -taking robots!

Why Teaching?
…Actually I wanted to work in The Diplomatic Corp but part of my family worked for a government the US had an embargo against and I couldn’t get a security clearance; so with a love of reading and writing, I decided to try teaching and have loved it! Now I do have down days where I just can’t seem to get students engaged in Othello, but when they research and make discoveries (Shakespeare most likely had an African lover he encountered during research in a brothel), then students make a transition from the ‘Dark Side’ to enlightenment and the learning begins!

Documents and resumes can only give one a look at the academic and accomplished side of a person.
I hope my letter of introduction offers insight into me: my teaching style, my passion for teaching and ability to effectively touch lives and appreciate that diversity is how I entered the world!

Jan Pena-Davis
penadavis@aol.com
jpendavis@colum.edu

Matthew Shenoda

Dear Dr. Kim:

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, along with a copy of my current CV, 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.

Sincerely,
Matthew Shenoda
Associate Professor, Creative Writing

Brooke Thomas

I, as a student, appreciate Columbia College Chicago’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Columbia fosters an inclusive environment for all students, faculty and staff. Columbia also supports a student life, work and a class environment where all students should feel they could work together to achieve their full potential. Most importantly, Columbia values the unique abilities and talents each individual brings to the college, and recognizes that we benefit in numerous ways from differences in culture, ethnicity, national origin, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, age, disability, genetic information, and sexual orientation. We also believe it's important to strengthen our students to respond to an increasingly diverse workforce upon graduation.

As the Black Student Union President, I have strived to do three main things. Enlighten, Unite and Develop students. Enlighten by driving awareness, understanding and appreciation of Black / African American culture. Unite by creating a connection between all students and Black / African American students while fostering internal and external community engagement. Lastly, develop by contributing to the professional growth of Black / African Americans while promoting and encouraging the advancement of the Black African American college experience here at Columbia College Chicago.

While interacting with each other during our meetings, Black Student Union’s E-board and general members are reminded that the goal is to truly appreciate differences, not merely to tolerate others. By exploring attitudes towards differences and change behaviors, members and non-members see a clear connection and the benefits of being a diversity forefront college. This realization is vital, as it helps drive the performance of others and creates an environment in which all students can work to their own personal goals.

I hope to help students at Columbia College Chicago to develop a meaningful plan to instill the importance or diversity, equity and inclusion to create a competitive advantage for themselves in the workforce.

Fo Wilson

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.

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