Dr. Angela Campbell is clear about the work of her office. “Mission and DEIB are inseparable — you can’t have a mission and not have an equitable, inclusive, and racially just environment,” she said. “If you don’t have that environment, you’ve lost the vision of what Mother Cabrini was all about.”
As Vice President for Mission, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Student Engagement at Cabrini University, Campbell was also recently appointed Chief Mission Officer of the school’s DEI advisory council.
As changes continue to occur within positions and departments, she understands she must ensure that all initiatives are integrated with the school’s core values and represent diverse voices.
“There should be DEI and mission goals in every area of the institution, and that’s part of my work,” Campbell said. “DEI lives and breathes in every center and every sector.”
The current look
Cabrini’s DEI advisory council has five working groups to help sustain long term success regarding diversity in all facets of the institution: the Culturally Academic Curriculum and Education Working Group, the Transparency and Reporting Working Group, the Policy and Auditing Working Group, the Cultivate a Welcoming Campus Climate Working Group, and the Fundraising and Partnerships Working Group.
“What’s really powerful about the council is that it went from a task force to being a council,” said Campbell. The importance of going from a “task force to a council is that it will continue to influence perpetuity in DEI – that it’s not just a one–and–done or a reactionary response.”
The council is composed of student, faculty, staff, alumni, and board, totaling 20 representatives. But students and faculty outside the group may not be aware of its next steps.
“We are engaged in conversations about faculty and staff of color. Recruitment and retention — that is a key priority in the DEI advisory council,” Campbell said. “We’re at almost 50% BIPOC [student] population. We don’t have 50% full-time BIPOC employees, so that’s what the retention initiatives are all about.”
Reporting to Campbell within the current structure of the Office of DEIB, are Director of the Office of DEIB Leila Dunbar, Director of the Wolfington Center Dr. Ray Ward, and Director of Campus Ministry (the position is currently open).
Through the latest restructuring of positions associated with the office, Campbell said “We’re hoping that these changes in structure can support the fiscal health of the institution.”
Plans in motion
In June 2021, Cabrini University joined the Liberal Arts College Racial Equity Leadership Alliance. This investment grants Cabrini access to many recommendations and approaches from experts in the field. Through actions such as monthly eConvenings, faculty and staff may obtain resources to help them provide equitable campus environments.
Training began in February 2022. Campbell also said she will “be doing a special training with the board of trustees coming up; it’s very important because the governing starts at the top.”
Sending out the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climate surveys last year to students was also a driving force that allowed students to give their perspectives. The data is now in for DEIB to examine.
“Out of 1303 students who were invited to participate in the survey in the fall of 2021, 545 students responded to the survey; a response rate of 41.83% percent,” said Campbell. “And we have the actual racial background of the students who took the survey and the demographic information.”
During the Walking the Talk in DEI event held on Dec. 8, these results will be discussed with students and the comparative data with other institutions. The survey aimed to focus on what can be improved within six NACCC topic areas: appraisals of institutional commitment, impact of external environments, racial learning and literacy, encounters with racial stress, mattering and affirmation, and cross-race engagement.
According to Campbell, the DEI advisory council is also working on a strategic plan for the 2022-23 school year, as well as a racial-bias incident reporting system that will be vetted through another working group in the council.
“We want students to know that we are building a better process and protocol to be able to handle complaints,” said Campbell. “In the midst of a lot of changes that are happening we want to make sure we have a good protocol around these reports — we are making sure we are staying attuned to restorative practices in education.”
Hopes from a student
Naiser Warren-Robinson, senior Black studies major and former president of the Black Student Union, was one of the students with a declared Black studies major before it was cut in 2021.
“There were a bunch of history classes that I had to take for the major that taught me the history that I needed, and it won’t be as simple for newer students,” Warren-Robinson said. “They might shy away from those courses because Black history-related courses aren’t explicitly labeled as Black studies courses anymore. They’re sort of just dispersed throughout other majors.”
A department’s curriculum is something DEI can influence in the long run. Students like Warren-Robinson have hopes and suggestions they would love to see put into motion.
“An intro to Black studies course should be mandated in the curriculum, and we should all learn that type of history, or at least some of it; it’s American history,” Warren-Robinson said. “It would go a long way toward improving the atmosphere because you can tell that now it’s sort of an ‘out of sight out of mind’ type of place.”
He continued, “If you implement these types of courses that go deeply into the history of cultures and put it in people’s faces, then they kind of have to confront what’s been missing. Then conversations can be started and that’s how you build.”
Attend the Walking the Talk event on Dec. 8 in the Grace Hall Atrium at 10:30 a.m. to further discuss the data collected and other future initiatives.