College strives for diversity, equity and inclusion


Executive Search Consultant’s Kim Bobby and Loren Anderson listen to Augustana students Photo by Brady Johnson

Augustana College committee commences the process of hiring a Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the following school year.
The college is searching for someone to fulfill the senior leadership position of Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This position will be a member of the President’s cabinet working alongside the President, the Dean, and others in the cabinet. The position is to assist the campus with issues about race, ethnicity, and religion, and implementing strategies to prevent such issues
This position originates from the strategy plan Augustana 2020. This plan strives to focuses on four key aspects in the college. The first being enhanced preparation of students to advance their success as graduates. Second is integration of academics with offices of student life. The third is to transform learning affordability and value. And finally, the fourth one is diversity and inclusion, from which the position stems.
In the 2015 Senior survey, a student of color didn’t have feelings of belonging. And after reports from students of having a lesser sense of belonging, Augustana felt the need to develop a senior leader, rather than multiple groups on campus, to lead the community into a stronger sense of belonging.
The Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion may create new strategies to maintain an inclusive space such as pedagogies with professors who desire them to discuss current events. A requirement for this position will be to teach about something related to the position on campus and four to six years of experience teaching and speaking on topics of race and ethnicity. This leader will also work along the Residential Life Office to create programs to create a more diverse and inclusive space in the residential facilities.
The committee in charge of the hiring process is comprised of Dr. Umme Al-Wazedi who is the Chairman, Faculty- English and WGS professor, Chris Beyer in Residential Life,  Dr. John Hildreth who is a faculty member in Music, Dr.  Mariano J. Magalhães who is a faculty member in Political Science, Dr. Jennifer Popple who is a faculty member in Theater and WGS, Samuel Payan in Multicultural Student Life, Mark Schwiebert who is a Trustee, Provost Gail Summer, and Chris Vaughan in IT, and students Vanessa Dominguez and Stacie Gill.
“We are looking for someone who will collaborate with different groups of people and facilitate discussion to empower everyone,” Al-Wazedi said.
This Thursday September 21, Loren Anderson and Kim Bobby, consultants from the AGB search, hosted an open discussion about the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. They facilitated a conversation about what someone in this position would require from students on campus and Rachel Meadors, a Senior majoring in WGS and Psychology, contributed to this discussion.
“We have very few faculty of color and the retention for our faculty of color is very low,” Meadors said at the discussion. Meadors has been very active about racial and gender issues on campus. “The first Black Student Organization on campus was in 1961-62 and they had a sit in in the President’s office at the time. They brought in a list of demands and needs. Now every time we protest we consciously and on purpose use that same list of demands because we have not seen significant progress,” Meadors said.
We are building critical thinkers. People come with their faith, their own understanding of different aspects of the society. College is supposed to change you in a very constructive way, maybe even test those ideas  that you came with yet you want a safe space. That safe space has to be for everyone here. There are safe spaces now on campus but our hope is that this person [Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] is going to help create more of those spaces and help build a greater campus atmosphere in the near future and beyond 2020,” Al-Wazedi said.
Students enrolling in fall of 2017-18 comprise the largest and most diverse group in the college’s history with more than 800 students include 87 international students, 56 transfer students, and 152 domestic students of color.
The search for the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will take until March 2018. The committee’s focus right now is to define what is needed from a candidate. By October 3rd, a full profile of the search will be posted and the college will finally hire around March 2018.