Diversity Success Stories

The OIE newsletter tells stories of programmatic efforts across campus that have noticeable impact toward achieving our Universitywide diversity goals. If you have a diversity success story to share, email vpoie@spu.edu.

June 2020 - Faculty and Staff Learning Group

Emily Huff, Director of Field Placements, School of Education

Becky Hughes and I were in a Faculty Learning and Growth Group (FLAGG) together three years ago where we read Lee Mun Wah’s Let's Get Real: What People of Color Can't Say and Whites Won't Ask About Racism. We were so impacted by the conversations in that group that we have kept those monthly conversations going ever since by leading the Culturally Responsive FLAGG on the topic of race. Our content has included Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism and the podcast series “Seeing White from the Scene On Radio podcast.

This year we chose to read Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist, hoping to build on our earlier conversations and provide a space for further processing, growth, and accountability around issues of raceOur group ranged from five to ten participants each month, and the conversations around tables and in Zoom rooms focused on discussions of privilege and racism through the variety of lenses given to us in the book . 

We are so grateful for our time together that challenged and sharpened us to better understand how the perpetuation of systems that leverage benefit for some and pain and disadvantage for others continues today.  Below are some reflections that give a window into the way the book broadened our perspectives and challenged us in this past year:

  • Sophia Ross, Field Placement Coordinator, School of Education - Reading this book was especially helpful in that it articulated many things I'd heard before, but weaved them together in such a way that I now better understand how racist policies and systems throughout the history of the United States contribute to the present-day racism I see both in person and on social media. Kendi makes the political personal and is the first to call out his own racism, which I think allows the reader to feel safe enough to confront their own internalized racism at the same time. His use of definitions at the start of each chapter clarifies his complex ideas and makes his strategies accessible to anyone, especially those of us who have white privilege. 
  • Alyse Bradway, Student Employment Manager, Student Financial Services - I loved the far-reaching historical context that [Kendi] brings in, the call to action that he inspires by showing the damage of complacency, and the short and easily comprehendible chapters.
  • Becky Hughes, Assistant Professor of History - Kendi has inspired me to learn more of the history of my own lifetime. "Antiracist" policies and ideas that emerged out of the 1960s and 70s were not antiracist, and we see the legacies of these play out in the 90s through today. By studying this history, I seek to gain wisdom about the ideas we talk about today. 
  • Phillip Baker, Assistant Professor of Psychology - I also appreciated how Kendi was able to weave in both distant and more recent examples of how specific policies have played out in both politics and in cultural expression across racial divisions. In many ways the examples he used subverted assumptions about policies and how they operate in practice to reinforce ideas that masquerade as "historical" or "the way things are." I really enjoyed learning with you all through this book.

We know that the impact of our time together will continue to push us to acknowledge the legacy of racism in our country, to confront our own racism, and to commit to do what we can to promote communities of equality, justice, reconciliation, and care for one another. Becky and I don’t really have an end in sight as this is ongoing work that will last our whole lives.  Next year, the book on deck is Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. We’d love for you to join us!

May 2020 - Departmental Perspective: Diversity in Hiring

Lori Brown, Associate Director of the Center for Career and Calling

How Do You Diversify Your Staff?

Five years ago, during my final interview with the Center for Career and Calling (CCC), I walked into a room of six women who looked just like me – middle class, middle aged, Caucasian, female. And in that moment, I felt reasonably secure that I would be offered the job. Research suggests the more closely that interviewers identify with the interviewee, the more likely they are to hire that person.

This, of course, creates a barrier for anyone who looks different than the interview committee – anyone with different skin color, culture or life experiences. It requires the candidate to successfully jump through several hurdles in order to be hired – none of which may be based on the skill level they bring to the table or their ability to do the job. Hiring bias is deeply ingrained, and most of us are not aware of how bias works in each of us, or in our teams as a whole. Even when we do realize it, we often are at a loss how to change it.

In the first few months of my new job in the CCC, I discovered nearly 40% of SPU’s students were students of color, and that number was continuing to grow. I grew curious, and began to wonder how our staff in the CCC could better reflect the diversity of our students. But I didn’t know if I should raise the diversity issue so early in my new role. I felt awkward doing so. I wasn’t sure how my new co-workers would respond.

As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. Broaching the conversation revealed a staff as curious as I was. Collectively we wanted to increase the diversity in our department to best serve the students on campus. The question was how.

Our commitment led the way, and small steps followed. Since my hiring five years ago, we’ve been setting a plan in motion:

First, diversify our Peer Career Advisor student staff, who had up to that point been mostly Caucasian females. Each year we hire five PCA’s. How could we better reach all students with the opportunity to become a PCA? Our then-PCA’s came up with a plan – host display tables in the SUB, create a social media campaign, give 3-minute presentations in classes, share information with student clubs, create posters and sandwich boards to post around campus. The goal was to reach new groups of students. The result? This year nearly 70% of the PCA applicants were students of color.

Second, remove as much bias from the hiring process as possible by removing names from resumes. By using “blind” resumes, we were able to discuss the merits of a candidate without being influenced by all the ways the candidate was like us, or not. The result? This year we extended interviews to seven students, 70% were students of color.

Third, change the interview process. Conduct group interviews, give the applicants an activity to work on together to replicate the work environment as closely as possible. Change the one-on-one interview format from a thirty-minute meeting with six staff, to a series of three individual fifteen-minute meetings with one staff member. Create common interview questions and a rubric to score candidates. Provide interview questions to candidates before the interview. The result? We’ve just finished our hiring process for 20-21: 80% of our newly hired PCA’s are students of color. Plus we have two men!

We’ve also taken our learnings from PCA hiring and applied them to staff hiring. Research is clear that a diverse workforce improves creativity, innovation, productivity, and decision-making. We need all of these in order to best serve our students.

Five years ago, when I started my job, the CCC didn’t have a single person of color on our eight-person staff of part-time and full-time employees. Today, three of our eight staff members look differently than me, and the six women who hired me. And just like the PCA’s, we have a man too!

Changing the CCC hiring process to embrace every student on campus, and every person who applies for a staff role, has been exciting, challenging, frustrating, joyful, and fraught with disappointment. Sometimes I’ve wept at decision making. Sometimes I’ve rejoiced at decision making.

For the CCC staff, understanding our own bias, and how it keeps us from truly seeing someone for who they are, has brought each of us to our knees. We’ve been deeply grieved when we’ve looked inside ourselves. And we’ve been deeply encouraged by what we’ve seen in our colleagues. We want to change. We want to see the fullness of students and co-workers, understand the ways each contributes to our office and serves our students. Through it all, I find myself more committed to the journey with our CCC staff who have shown vulnerability, transparency, and a willingness to change. We are committed to the students on our campus. When we see their faces, hear their stories, know their names, we are inspired to always do better, be better, make a better way for them -- one hire at a time.

May 2020 - Divisional Perspecitve: Diversity and Inclusion Audit

Chuck Strawn, Dean of Students for Community Life, Office of Student Life

In Fall of 2018, Student Life (inclusive of Athletics) endeavored to fully audit all of the elements of our programming, education, and support initiatives around the University’s missional positions regarding diversity and inclusion. This included elements highlighted in institutional positional statements and foundational to Student Life’s Falcon Formation guiding document.

We approached this audit through the following sets of questions:

  • How do our programs/services/instruction/training engage the idea of "diversity" at an institutional level?
  • How are we working with our professional staff in this area?
  • How do we engage with the entirety of the student body around this topic?

Once we completed the audit, we noticed that our programs and initiatives clustered around some common themes. At the institutional level, emerging themes pointed to our work on various campus committees, our efforts to inform and shape campus policies, and the conversations that resulted from various campus partnerships. Within regard to professional staff, professional development and hiring processes were common themes. Finally, our work with students included recruitment, selection, and training of student leaders; direct educational opportunities around issues of inclusion and cross-cultural engagement; and continuing efforts to support our students, including retention efforts.

After evaluating this further, we recognized that we had several gaps in our current diversity and inclusion engagement. We identified the need for consistent, division-wide training opportunities, as these were mostly happening within individual areas. There was also discussion around our efforts to recruit and hire candidates who could partner with our efforts to create inclusive spaces, and our observation that these were hampered by external factors (pay, hours, etc.) and by elements of our institutional history in these areas. Finally, we also saw that our collaboration with other campus stakeholders in diversity and inclusion work was limited by failures to make sure others on campus were aware of our efforts. Our goal over the past year or so is to address these gaps.

One aspect I would hope to include in future audits is assessment of our programs, services, instruction, and training. It’s one thing to identify and count an initiative, and another altogether to measure its success. It will be vital to include external stakeholders in this evaluation, including the students who we are blessed to learn alongside.

March 2020

Kate O'Donnell, Undergraduate Academic Counselor, Student Academic Services

How can our work contribute to a climate of equity and justice on SPU’s campus? This question was one that staff in Student Academic Services (SAS) desired to dig into, but wasn’t clear on how best to begin. Encouraged by our leadership to begin tackling this question, I was honored to lead our office’s creation of a strategic plan to thoughtfully engage this question and create sustainable systems to continue this important work far into the future.

In collaboration with members of our staff and through the generous support and guidance of Dr. Mayo and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we created a Diversity Action Plan based off of assessing some of our area’s unique strengths and characteristics, while keeping in mind some of the barriers that may arise. We knew that one challenge we had, as a staff with many backgrounds, was forming a shared language in which to communicate about this work. Some strengths we identified were the longevity of our team as well as the established culture of working groups for specialized initiatives and shared values. From this, we developed a four-step action plan beginning with developing a deepened cultural competence and forming a framework on how to address issues of equity and race within SAS.

With a generous ODEI diversity seed grant, we were able to bring in Dr. Caprice Hollins, an incredible speaker and educator who co-founded the Seattle organization Cultures Connecting, to begin work on the first part of the action plan. Some of the feedback we received from the training:

“Dr. Hollins created an environment of complete honesty, leading by example to establish ground rules of respect, courage, and personal experience. To watch our team move from collective wariness toward personal honesty and openness regarding racial bias and reconciliation in the space of three hours was amazing!”

“This workshop was the most powerful and personally-revelatory professional development workshop that I’ve ever attended.”

Equipped with this experience, our department is energized to continue this work and move on to the next steps in our Action Plan involving the creation of a Diversity Working Group taking on such efforts as ongoing action-learning initiatives around the principles of equity and cultural competence and reviewing policies and practices of the department with a lens of diversity and reconciliation. We are so grateful to be stepping into this work with intention and for the institutional commitment to ensuring equitable outcomes for all.

February 2020

Paul Youngbin Kim, Associate Professor of Psychology in the School of Psychology, Family, and Community

I consider the formation of the SPFC Diversity Committee in 2016 to be a success story. Although diversity-related conversations were already part of SPFC culture in many ways, we in SPFC also felt a need for an intentional and visible presence of diversity-focused leadership within our school community. Thus, with the full support of the SPFC leadership team (dean and department chairs), a SPFC Diversity Committee was created; to my knowledge, this is the first of its kind in SPFC’s history.

We were also aware that in order for the committee to be effective, we needed to keep in mind some important considerations. First, the committee purposefully includes faculty members representing each of the four SPFC departments (Clinical Psychology, Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Psychology), which allows for faculty voices to be heard across the departments; this also provides the committee with liaisons to the four departments. Second, the SPFC dean is also a full member of the committee. This provides a natural connection between the committee and SPFC leadership team, and it also sends the clear message that diversity work is central to the work that we do in SPFC. Finally, the committee is led by a chair who also serves in the SPFC Diversity Advisor role.

Some highlights of our work include implementing a mix-method study of SPFC students’ racialized experiences, presenting at the CCCU Diversity Conference, and hosting quarterly lunch gathering of the SPFC community featuring presentations on themes like White fragility, racial belonging, and transgender and gender diverse students (upcoming). We were also the first academic unit on campus to go through the Departmental Readiness Evaluation (DRE) process; the preparation of the DRE materials required significant gathering of data within our community and honest reflections on our areas of growth as a learning community. As a next step, we are planning to implement an ongoing assessment of the impact that our diversity-focused classes are having on our students’ multicultural competence.

January 2020

Becky Hughes, Assistant Professor of History, College of Arts and Sciences

How do we help students appreciate our diverse world through the lens of the Christian faith? This question drove many of the curricular changes that we in the History Department are implementing. We identified several ways we could improve our program’s attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but I will focus on one for this column.

We have created a new requirement for History students: “Christian Perspectives on Problems in History.” This category is devoted to understanding Christian perspectives on thorny issues in human history, such as genocide, forced migration, and war. These courses provide students with the opportunity to study evil and to understand why some people might ask if God was absent in these tragedies. In these classes, student reflect upon ideas and systems through the lens of Christian faith and ethics, weighing what people in the past did and how we can learn from them. We practice lament, mourning the victims and the actions of the victimizers. Thus, we affirm the dignity of every human as a child of God. We seek to promote Christian hope in the face of such evil because of the goodness of God and his coming kingdom. Students gain ideas and tools on making wise decisions, and we aim to infuse students with the Christian confidence that their lives and choices matter.

While our new curriculum doesn’t formally launch until next year, we are already offering some of these new courses. We welcome all students to sign up for them!

December 2019

Jordan Grant, Assistant VP for Enrollment Operations and Student Financial Services

Enrollment Operations (EOPS) and Student Financial Services (SFS) staff have come to diversity work from a variety of experiences and understanding. In order to have a shared experience, EOPS and SFS attended three DEI workshops. The workshops were facilitated by Dr. Anu Taranath, a consultant and faculty at the University of Washington. Staff were exposed to new ways to view relationships and experiences while learning foundational terms and their definitions.

Scattered within the workshops, we were encouraged to write personal reflections. Writing in a safe space and naming difficult experiences and/or places for growth was enlightening and healing. Much of this work was grounded in recognizing that everyone comes from different lived experiences. 

After two workshops, the EOPS and SFS Diversity Committee engaged staff in new ways. Staff were provided time to write or create from a prompt on diversity topics, such as first-generation experiences, gender in the workplace, and discovering diverse information sources. Staff who expressed interest went to lunch with another person to build trust and relationship. Each quarter EOPS and SFS gather for a potluck breakfast. A diversity topic is shared during this time, raising awareness and discussion. Each staff person who has not previously attended Diversity 101 will do so. In addition, a best practices guide is being developed.

In the third workshop, staff shared positive feedback on what has been accomplished. Dr. Anu also described a practice of listening to and for the suffering of others. This practice reminds us of a Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy. Blessed is it when we truly hear each other, and share in the suffering one carries, providing kindness, presence, and mercy. Like all things of God, this goodness cannot be contained – it can become beautiful, exponential reciprocal mercy.

November 2019

Sandra Mayo, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This year, SPU reached several significant milestones that mark progress in our journey toward more fully reflecting the diversity of God’s kingdom.

  • Fifty percent of incoming freshmen and 43% of all undergraduate students are from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.
  • Slightly more than one third (34%) of all undergraduates are first-generation students.
  • With the addition of two new members, 44% of SPU's board of trustees are from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

We can and should celebrate our growing diversity. But, diversity is only one component of the equation; inclusion and equity are the other two. As we see greater representation at all levels of the university, we must also continue to pay attention to how members of our community are experiencing life on campus. For example, while it is important for us to know the percentage of students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups on campus, it is also important for us to know if students are participating in high impact programs like study abroad, internships, and honors at rates proportional to their representation within our student body.

Recently the Office of Institutional Research, in partnership with the ODEI, developed a data dashboard that visually tracks, analyzes, and displays key metrics and data points to monitor SPU’s progress over time. The dashboard is designed to help us move beyond static demographic data and to assess the extent to which our campus is also inclusive and contributing to equitable outcomes. We look forward to using this data to inform our ongoing work and future goals.

October 2019

Alison Estep, Assistant Vice President of University Communications

University Communications attended a workshop called “Storytelling Strategies for Dismantling Racism” held at the Centilia Cultural Center last spring. This training event was funded by a seed grant from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. My sense is that each person in our department experienced this training differently, bringing their own lived experiences, viewpoints, and sensitivities. We collectively uncovered more differences among our reactions than I think anyone could have expected. This was a pretty raw type of training event and we all came away with our own reactions.

Speaking for myself, I can say this event had a profound impact. One of the charges of the facilitators to the participants was to adopt an attitude of “deep listening.” For me, someone who has benefited all my life for being white, this deep listening meant setting aside my impulse to be defensive.

The facilitator was tough but I endeavored to shed my rationalizations and just listen and experience the passion of candid sharing and critique. And sometimes this hurt. I don’t like to think of myself as going through life with privilege because of my race. I certainly don’t want to believe that I see race first and someone’s sacred humanity second. I struggle to accept that I am bringing a lens of race to so much of my life. These are humbling and convicting notions.

I am grateful for the chance to step back and listen attentively; to shed my arguments. This journey of becoming more self-aware around race and inequity was helped along for me because of this workshop. Getting uncomfortable – deeply listening to another person’s lived experience – moved me to a place of greater empathy.

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 cast 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.