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Diversity: how do we stack up? Dr. Calvin Hill and Felicia Lundquist address the current state of Springfield College's campus

By Tirzah McMillan

Since 1885, Springfield College’s mission has been to educate the whole person in mind, body, and spirit for leadership in service to others. But until recent years, this mission has mostly applied to a relatively homogeneous population—white, male-dominated, heterosexual, and cis-gender.

With the development of the Division of Inclusion and Community Engagement, small strides have been made in the right direction, but there are still various challenges the campus must grapple with before it can fully diversify its membership.

Springfield’s Diversity Statement reads in part:

“...We believe our campus is stronger when all persons, regardless of race, color, religion,

national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,

disability, socioeconomic status, size, diversity of thought, or veteran status feel secure.

We hold all members responsible for creating and maintaining a welcoming and safe

Springfield College community.”

According to Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement, Dr. Calvin Hill, “We’re not where we wanna be, but we’re getting closer.”

Who are Felicia Lundquist and Calvin Hill?

In order for the college to successfully tackle such a complex task, leadership is required. Both Calvin Hill and Felicia Lundquist, Director of Multicultural Affairs, have transitioned into their roles gracefully, and because of their presence many new advances have been made to improve the culture and tradition at Springfield.

“My role is strategically charged with looking at the campus from an inclusive standpoint of looking at faculty and staff hires, issues of curriculum, [and] how we do things from a social justice standpoint,” said Hill.

“Felicia creates that student engagement on campus, [she] is that hands-on person for students doing speaker series, [educational courses], and the cultural connections programming to really create that climate that’s conducive to students’ success,” Hill explained as he looked earnestly through his thickly square framed, black glasses.

“Something that is really important to mention is that there’s a lot of collaboration,” explained Lundquist about her role in Multicultural Affairs. “My office works across campus with many different departments, currently we’re working with the YMCA and we are going to be a part of Diversity Inclusion Global Networking,” she continued. “And creating a student and faculty staff advisory board where we’re looking at globalization and issues that are faced by many people in the context of our community.”

Although both of their positions bleed into outreach, Hill recognizes that Lundquist’s strength is her influential involvement within the student body.

“I don’t do a lot of student engagement,” he admitted. “My role is really to create policies and programs that make faculty, staff, and students feel like this is a space where they can play, work, and thrive.”

As marginalized individuals, Hill and Lundquist are passionate about creating an environment where all feel safe and welcomed, but both agree that everyone should take part in setting that sort of atmosphere.

“Felicia and I are on the same page that [we] don’t need to have that sole responsibility,” said Hill. “[We] want more and more people across campus to feel like it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure that our faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds are supported.”

Lundquist believes that to accomplish this, individuals need to feel like they have a safe place to cultivate change.

“There’s certainly areas of improvement, but I also see a lot of things that we’ve done to create a more inclusive community,” she said. “Empowering students to feel like they can be active is one way in doing that.”

Fortunately, overall awareness on DNI (diversity and inclusion) has increased significantly as of late. “I think that we’re making some positive strides, specifically over the course of the last ten years within higher education,” mentioned Hill. “We’ve expanded the way we think about diversity and inclusion.”

How diverse is Springfield College?

Based on Springfield College’s official Factbook, from 2015 to 2018 both the student and faculty populations are still overwhelmingly white, but becoming more diverse.

Over the three-year span for undergraduates, the Hispanic population has grown from 132 to 189, American Indian Alaskan Native has remained at 6, Black/African American has grown from 113 to 122, Asian has grown from 21 to 62, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population has decreased from 3 to 2, Two or more races increased from 35 to 48, Non-Resident has dropped from 61 to 49, Unknown has grown from 38 to 98, and the White population has decreased from 1751 to 1553.

When comparing statistics for faculty, Hispanic population has grown from 8 to 10, American Indian Alaskan Native has remained at 0, Black/African American has grown from 10 to 14, Asian increased from 6 to 9, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander has stayed at 0, Two or more races remained at 0, Non-Resident has stayed at 0, Unknown has grown from 8 to 9, and the White population has dropped from 179 to 167.

With that being said, diversity is slowly increasing across the board, but as of 2018, 72.9 percent of the student body, and 79.5 percent of all faculty are white.

“I think part of it historically is you have to look who the institution was designed for, and moving forward it takes work to change those policies and practices,” said Lundquist as the silver bracelets on her wrist jangled gently. “We still have some that favor dominant groups, and part of that dominant group are white folks and also men.”

If anyone were to spend a day on Springfield’s campus one would quickly notice that over 70 percent of all faculty and students are White, but the disparity between men and women has notably gotten smaller since its founding.

“I think part of it is unraveling some of our history which is not inclusive, and the policies and practices that don’t favor those that are coming from marginalized groups,” explained Lundquist, who is exploring methods that are working towards change.

“It takes micromovements, it takes time, so we’re not quite there yet,” she said. “While Springfield is very diverse, Springfield College racially is not as diverse, so it might not be attractive to some folks if they know they are going to come into a community that’s not reflective of who they are, and that’s challenging.”

In addition to recognizing the past, Hill suggests redefining DNI in its entirety.

“When I was in college, the way that we thought about diversity was really kind of black and white,” Hill recalled. “So the way that we think about diversity and inclusion today on campus, it’s really about the diversity of race, class, of gender identity and the way we express ourself, spiritual identity, and internationalization.”

In the current political climate, and with the increasing cost of higher education, fewer international students are taking up visas to study abroad, and those who have the ability to study at Springfield College are not well integrated into the community.

“I see that with international students, they’re always with each other; I don’t see [the] majority of our [traditional] students reaching out,” observed Hill after eating many times in Cheney Hall and speaking with the student body.

“Too many times we think of international students as being exotic and the other and we kind of keep them at a distance,” Hill said. “We’ve gotta do a much better job of trying to get our international students interwoven into who we are as a campus community,” he continued. “I think we try here on campus, but it really also has to be a desire on behalf of our students to get to know people that are different from themselves.”

If the Springfield College mission is to be lived out, inclusion and engagement has to begin at the student level, and be provided for all, by all.

“The more you get to know someone from a different culture, the better you’re gonna be as a human being,” explained Hill. “And until we really try to make that part of who we are, we’re not gonna be successful.”

What steps are being taken to improve Diversity and Inclusion?

“One of our key goals is specifically looking at increasing visible and invisible diversity on campus,” said Hill. “Both in terms of faculty, and in terms of students.”

The pace of progress has been slow, but the efforts are tremendous. Hill has begun by implementing bias reduction workshops for faculty, search and selection training in hiring, core recruiting for incoming students, and has used his background as a Baptist minister’s son to deepen his involvement and broaden his perspective on faith traditions at the college level.

“Martha Potvin, our provost, and I brought a group to talk to faculty about the biases that we have as individuals that can negatively impact who we ultimately decide to bring in for phone interviews, campus interviews, and hire for the positions,” explained Hill. “We also started doing a search and selection training [that] has been really helpful because it gives faculty and staff a toolkit,” he continued. “It gives them questions that they can perhaps ask to help gauge someone’s perspective and background, and it creates an opportunity for human resources and myself to look at who is applying for positions.”

To meet the goal of diversifying the workforce, Hill has Human Resources pull departmental data on employees in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity so that his colleagues and the President’s Leadership Team can look at where they are lacking, so they can further improve.

“We’ve also been doing some work called core recruiting,” Hill said. “Understanding that having two, three, four people from a school is actually better than just having one person come from you know, New Jersey by themself because you’re more likely to connect and stay when you feel like you’re part of a community within a larger community.”

Hill also makes an effort to speak with families about the value of diversity and inclusion on campus. With his professional suit, red bowtie, and welcoming aura, he kindly urges parents and students alike that when one goes out into the world of work, connections are made with people from all backgrounds, so having an opportunity to have those dialogues now is absolutely critical.

Equally as important, is the understanding that each person who arrives on campus has a different way of expressing their beliefs, which deserves respect regardless of personal opinion.

“More students than not are coming in not having a faith tradition, so allowing them an opportunity to explore is absolutely critical,” said Hill. “Having an opportunity to understand what you believe and speak to individuals that are Jewish, or Muslim, allows you to gain an appreciation of their faith tradition as well,” Hill continued with excitement.

Hill’s daughter is a senior in high school, and venturing on college tours with her as she is about to open a new chapter in her life has inspired him to view the concept of cultural and spiritual identity with new eyes.

“College is a time of transformation; it’s about the opportunity to find sort of who you are and be able to grow into that,” Hill explained. “Our role here on campus is to make sure that we create opportunities for students to be able to live that and gain that deeper appreciation however they choose.”

Lundquist on the other hand has honed in on educating the public about inclusive language, advocating for reciprocal relationships in future cultural connections, heightened awareness for trans inclusion, and more support of student activism.

“We did a workshop on the difference between inclusive language and being politically correct. [Being politically correct] is something society has set out so you may or may not believe that,” explained Lundquist. “But inclusive language is something that you buy into, that you want to use to take the initiative to be inclusive,” she continued. “That’s something that I see continuing in terms of our progression of being more inclusive, is creating spaces where we’re using inclusive language.”

In her last four years, Lundquist has seen campus programming expand, and the college has become more inclusive in terms of looking at social identities and membership groups.

“Right now we’ve been looking at trans inclusion and housing opportunities for individuals that identify as trans,” she revealed. “These are things that I think a few years ago folks weren’t talking about at all, and if they were it was a very small amount of folks having that discussion.”

In terms of identity the campus is expanding, but the topic is still looked at from a very heteronormative perspective. In order to improve, the populations that Springfield College are serving need to be represented, and students need to feel empowered so they can act in accordance.

“I think student activism is increasing,” noted Lundquist proudly. “I don’t see Springfield College being a campus like my alma mater UMass, where students were taking over buildings and protesting, but I do see students engaged and interested in creating and cultivating change,” she said. “I think that we need to value activism as a form of scholarship.”

Lundquist spoke gently, but passionately – student engagement is something that nourishes her soul.

“Many of our students are first generation college students coming from working class backgrounds and for them to do this work as volunteerism is not fair because they have to also go out and work,” stated Lundquist. “So why not get paid to do that, or why not offer scholarships for students that are active and doing things in the community.”

In which direction will Springfield be heading in the next 15-20 years?

“We need another person in Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Hill,” said Lundquist over her shoulder as a small fit of laughter was shared between them. “We’re gonna have a Center of Inclusion.” They both smiled.

The work demand between both Hill and Lundquist can at times be a tiresome burden, and requires emotional labor, but their tree too will one day bear fruit.

“When you look at issues of trans identity, we’re gonna have more faculty and students that identify as trans on campus, and we need to make sure we’re ready for that change,” said Hill. “I think class is going to be perhaps our biggest and our next significant issue,” he proposed. “If I had a crystal ball, if I was thinking about where campuses are going to be looking at I think social economics is going to be a huge issue for us,” Hill continued with clear thought and consideration.

“I think trans identity, trans inclusion is gonna be a significant issue for us to explore, [and] the race issue continues to be prevalent, but I think it will probably not be at the forefront.”

In addition to changes being made on the administrative level, Lundquist envisions a diversified climate in the classroom.

“I think we’ll definitely see a lot more social justice education woven into all classes so that for people it’s just second nature in terms of what they’re teaching,” she explained. “Being able to see the intersections of identity and the politics within the coursework is something that will be important,” Lundquist went on as the nose ring on the right side of her face shimmered underneath the overhead lights.

“I also envision with my crystal ball that there will be intergroup dialogues where it will be less uncomfortable and more part of the norm [to have] conversations around social justice, equity, and access,” she said. “I definitely would advocate to see a center for inclusion where students can be in a space where it feels safe, and it’s their space.”

What can be taken away from this conversation and how can it continue?

“Part of what we have to do is understand that this is a journey,” said Hill. “One of the things I ultimately hope is that you will take back the experiences that you had as students on a college campus, and make sure that your children are much more prepared than perhaps you were,” he said optimistically. “To be on a campus that is diverse and vibrant and global.”

On a daily basis Hill and Lundquist challenge their students and faculty members to embrace the difficulty of reprogramming their socialization. New growth does not come without growing pains.

“We want you to embrace diversity and inclusion,” stated Hill. “And we have to in some respects reprogram for those of us that have not had those lived experiences where we’ve been able to think more broadly.”

For Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award recipient Kathleen Morris, immersing oneself into an environment where diversity is not prevalent can be a challenge, but doing nothing about it is harder than trying to make a difference.

“From what I've seen, there do seem to be some efforts being made to diversify Springfield College,” recalled Morris. “Programming like the speaker Leon Ford, who last year came and shared his experience with police brutality, is evidence of that,” she continued. “But on the other hand, there's still work to be done. It's no secret that the student body isn't as diverse as it could potentially be, and there are some departments that have practically no professors of color.”

As a commuter, Morris’ perspective of the campus is slightly different than that of a traditional student — alongside being a woman of color —but she has noticed the progression being made for a more inclusive future.

“In any case, I feel that there's always room for improvement and growth in any setting,” Morris explained. “But I truly think [the college] is working towards it, and that's comforting to know.”

A key in finding balance to maintain harmony within a diverse setting is to build reciprocal relationships. Everyone must acknowledge each other’s needs and different experiences so that there is adequate representation.

“When we talk about inclusion, where we are going, where we have been, and where we’re gonna be, part of that conversation is that we really need to look at the intersections of identity,” explained Lundquist. “And also looking at how we leverage our privilege to help with the cause, whatever that cause might be,” She kept speaking as a soft smile formed on her lips.

“It’s a slow journey and I always tell folks that as long as we’re moving in small steps, we’re moving in the right direction,” Lundquist said. “As long as we’re not stagnant, we’re good.”

Progress is being made, but micromovements are the only way Springfield College will essentially reach its goal.

“I don’t believe that we’re where we ultimately want to be, we’re gonna make mistakes each and every day, and I think even as a United States we’ve been struggling with this whole concept of inclusion,” said Hill. “We just need to continue to think about how we can be better, how we can treat each other better, how we can engage each other better, and how our language can be more inclusive.”

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Tirzah McMillan
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