Diversity Success Stories

Each month in the ODEI newsletter, we tell stories of faculty, staff, and students who are being encouraged, and sometimes challenged, in the ongoing work of diversity. Here are their stories. If you have a diversity success story to share, email odei@spu.edu.

June 2019

Jayne Hubbard '19, Director of SPU's Theatre and Music Departments' production of Violet

"Being given the opportunity to perform a script that was intentionally racially inclusive allowed for the telling of a very diverse story.” – Austin Dodd ’21 (Violet’s Father, Ensemble)

“This cast is diverse in a number of ways, and…the powerful story we told would not [have been] possible without each different mind adding their wisdom and heart.” – Kat Carlson ’19 (Violet)

When I first read the full script for Violet, a musical by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, I knew it was a story SPU needed to hear. The characters were specific, gritty, and diverse. This story of strong-willed Southerners traveling via Greyhound bus in 1964 features a tangible reality unlike anything else in the musical theatre canon.

Violet was special and unlike any piece of theater I’ve been a part of. I wanted to show that intentionality and that love on stage whenever I could. It…made me understand that those different types of love existed in the world of the play, but…also…inside of us and in the space we created for each other.” – Spencer Vigil ’19 (Bus Driver, Radio Singer, Virgil, Ensemble)

Once we got into the process, though, I felt way over my head. As a 22-year-old white woman, how was I to direct a show that featured such serious racism? I reached out to Dr. Mayo for help. She led me to discover that my job was to listen to the actors and designers, and prompt conversations, particularly about the most challenging issues. Dr. Mayo joined the case and crew for a group discussion on how the themes of race play a part in each of our roles. From there, we were able to establish a common language and approach to all our respective fields. The resulting production was powerful for participants and audiences alike.

May 2019

Charity Osborn, Assistant Professor of Business Law

Three weeks into teaching graduate level Business Ethics for the very first time, I — a middle-aged white woman charged with educating 22 mostly full-time working professionals, only two of whom were white and American — casually tossed a metaphorical lit match over my shoulder.

“Have you ever experienced unconscious bias or been excluded as a result of in-group favoritism?”

A moment of silent incredulity, and then, the room erupted. I stood by helplessly, mostly silently, for nearly 30 minutes, while students engaged in heated, visceral, and personal debate. Finally, the class period ended, and everyone left — with zero resolution. I was devastated.

When I called Dr. Mayo the next morning, she listened sympathetically and gave me some practical pedagogical ideas. But mostly, she reminded me that much of our ‘job’ as professors is to model reconciliation and encouraged me to get back in there, in spite of the breach — and to invite my students to do the same.

I reentered the classroom the next week with two photographs: first, a silly picture of a deer with giant goggle eyes — a deer in the headlights. That was me, and I apologized. Second, a beautifully set dinner table. Would they forgive me, and rejoin me at the learning table? 

For the next ten minutes, I feared their answer was “no.” I awkwardly started class, walking through slides and posing questions with little student response. Then, one student tentatively reengaged, and others quickly followed. Soon, we were talking and laughing together. We were back at the table again.