I was delighted when the Institute’s Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Jeff Dayton-Johnson, agreed to formalize diversity, equity, and inclusion at MIIS by creating the position of Chief Diversity Officer. This is a huge step for our community. Not only does this signify an institutional commitment to addressing discrimination and marginalization issues on our campus, but also provides hope of us proactively working to make the institute more inclusive and equitable.
I am honored to be the first person to hold this title at the Institute. As many of you know, since Spring 2016, I have been working on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through Allies at MIIS – an initiative I started through the Center for Conflict Studies, which I direct. I have trained around 24 students (up until Spring 2018) and through a process of reading, self-introspection, and engaging in difficult conversations, prepared them to explore the lifelong journey of being a better ally. Allies at MIIS has received accolades from various forums on and off campus for being an initiative that combines the academic and experiential approach to understanding identity-related conflicts.
I hope to continue the work of the Allies at MIIS initiative, but I also want to scale up the breadth of my reach and further the depth of community engagement by using Envisioning Middlebury’s transformational goal of “being a space for persuasive and inclusive dialogue” as a framework. Respecting different identities, cultures, values, and ideologies while building a unique MIIS identity is my big and long-term project. In the short term, I want us to be a learning community – read, reflect and converse – and I am committed to being a facilitator. My role is to establish a process for raising awareness, building sensitivity, and creating communication channels. The first step in this process is to get the community to see how we can integrate diversity and inclusion goals into everything we do.
I want this newsletter to be that safe and brave space where we can engage with courage and vulnerability. The plan is to publish two issues of this newsletter every semester. The publication dates are October and December in the Fall and March and May in the Spring. There are a few people I need to acknowledge: Dollie Pope, Advancement Coordinator, who spent hours with me brainstorming on the shape and purpose of this newsletter. Eva Gudbergsdottir, Associate Director of Communications, helped me focus on the reader when building contents and also helped navigate challenges associated with distributing the newsletter. Evelyn Helminen, Assistant Director for Digital Initiatives, was a big help in the technical aspects of our presentation. To every one of them, my sincere gratitude. I hope you will enjoy reading this inaugural issue as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
I welcome your ideas, opinions, and suggestions as we work together to make the campus more equitable.