Recently, I announced the formation of a new task force dedicated to the goal of making the College a national model for providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students and employees regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, religion, or ability.
The formation of this task force was inspired in part by students who gathered to express their concerns about diversity and tolerance on this campus. In doing so, these students have accelerated the College’s commitment to our shared goal of nurturing a place where all feel welcomed.
I was pleased to announce that the co-chairs of this IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action) Task Force are Brooklyn Sawyers, a member of the E&H Class of 2002, an assistant United States attorney from Knoxville, Tenn. and a member of the Emory & Henry College Board of Trustees, and Dr. Mark Finney, assistant professor of mass communications at Emory & Henry and an expert in conflict analysis and resolution.
The additional members of the task force include Tatiana Bolen, a first-year student from Richmond; Eli Chestnutt, a senior from Newton Grove, N.C.; Henri Fitzgerald, a member of the E&H Class of 2000 a vice president for Wells Fargo in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Fred George a member of the E&H Class of 2011 and an E&H admissions counselor; Taequan Kates, a senior from Dewitt, Va., and president of the Student Government Association; Dr. Shelley Koch, E&H assistant professor of sociology; Jolie Lewis, E&H academic advisor and orientation coordinator; Mariana Mendez, a first-year student from Concord, N.C.; Travis Proffitt a member of the E&H Class of 2004 and the associate director of the E&H Appalachian Center for Civic Life; Dr. Alma Ramirez-Trujillo, E&H assistant professor of Spanish; Ana Rampy, a first-year student from Alexandria, Va.; Jade Ritterbusch, a junior from Concord, Calif.; and Essence Smith, a junior from Ooltewah, Tenn.
The task force has held two meetings and will meet throughout the spring before submitting a list of recommendations to me by end of the spring semester.
As I have stated before, I invite these conversations, no matter how difficult they may be. I look forward to the work ahead of us and am optimistic that the actions we will take will have a profound and positive impact on our learning community, one that will serve not just us but for other institutions that strive for diversity in regions of the country where that diversity is not easily accessed.
Many of these issues have to do with creating a climate that celebrates inclusion and diversity. Every liberal arts college should desire to provide this type of welcoming and reassuring atmosphere for all students.
I invite any member of our community to visit with me or with our Title IX officer, Kim Steiner to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion. As a significant liberal arts college we must encourage an ethos where considerate conversations are welcomed, at all times. We have begun a new and much needed considerate conversation, and we must make more progress on its outcome.