Grace Amsden, Editor-in-chief
With intentions of examining the atmosphere at Pierce College in terms of equality and diversity, a series of assessments are being conducted at Pierce and considered by Diversity and Equity Consultant Tanya Bowers, who was hired to work on this project.
After a request looking for a consultant to assess diversity, inclusion and cultural competency within the college went out, Bowers accepted.
“When they put out this call, I was really excited to be able to come out to Pierce,” Bowers said.
Bowers has worked in diversity and inclusion since 1998, and this is her first time working with Pierce.
After analyzing the current climate at Pierce, she’ll create a diversity plan that’ll consist of suggestions to be made based off feedback from the Pierce College community.
“There’s been a number of activities around equity and diversity that have been going on for a number of years, but putting this plan together will help those things to take place in a coordinated
manner,” Bowers said.
One piece of the assessments is the Online Diversity Climate Survey sent to students and employees Dec. 2 through Pierce email. Students received a different survey than employees but with similar questions. The student survey questioned the sense of belonging on campus and any personal experience with discrimination and/or harassment at Pierce. This may refer to hearing comments from a faculty member or student that pertains to someone’s sexual identity, disability, economic, racial and/or ethnic background.
“It really was an opportunity for all members of the district to sound in on their experiences of diversity and inclusion at Pierce,” Bowers said.
Individuals taking the survey could rate a statement on a scale of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” or “never” to “frequently” in order to express levels of concern with the campus climate from their experience.
“Sometimes you physically see that we’re diverse, but you don’t see everyone in one place at the same time,” Equity and Diversity Coordinator Timothy Estes, who took the survey, said. “You kind of just see (what’s happening) in classes, and make up your own thought or definition of what diversity means here.”
The survey was open to be taken until Dec. 18. The results are being gathered by Director of Institutional Research Erik Gimness and will be available once the project is completed.
Working alongside Bowers are individuals on the Pierce executive team including Pierce College Puyallup President Marty Cavalluzzi and Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Denise Yochum. Bowers’ husband, Martin Valadez, is also working on the project. He’s currently an instructor and was previously vice president of diversity and outreach at Columbia Basin College.
One of the things Bowers will assess is whether Pierce College needs a diversity officer who will work with Pierce on enhancing diversity and inclusion. The need for a diversity officer isn’t currently decided, but Bowers will analyze the results and determine if a position should become available.
Bowers will also facilitate focus groups at the Puyallup and Fort Steilacoom campus. The groups are already filled, as students were selected. Some of the topics will be for students with disabilities, students of color, male students and female students and LGBTQ.
Also taking place are discussions for individuals to share their perspective called World Cafe. The purpose of World Cafe is to allow people to share their vision for the kind of environment they’d like to see within Pierce. The point of this isn’t to primarily focus on the past but look toward the future, Bowers said. All students can attend World Cafe, but it’s preferred that they confirm their attendance.
For students at the Fort Steilacoom campus, they can send a confirmation to Cheryl Batschi at email@example.com by Feb 1. For students at the Puyallup campus, they can RSVP to Christine Boiter at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 28.
The first World Cafe session will be 1-3 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Puyallup campus in the Black Box Theatre. At the Fort Steilacoom campus, the session will be 1-3 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Olympic Building 305. This session is held for a large number of participation, compared to the focus groups, for the discussion of diversity and inclusion.
“It’s a really wonderful means of having vehicle for meaningful discussion around important questions with large numbers of people,” Bowers said. “We’re going to be using it as part of visioning exercises.”
From previous findings, Bowers said that it’s common for officials at schools to desire to reach equity but not know how, despite efforts made; and at some point, officials will realize that they need to organize these endeavors.
“They end up doing what Pierce is doing in trying to make sure they have not just a diversity plan,” Bowers said. “But also making sure that the plan is aligned with whatever the strategies plan is for the school, and then making sure that diversity inclusion is a part of their larger strategic plan and if they don’t already have a diversity officer, then they look to hire someone.”
The project will be completed by the end of March, Bowers said. After it’s complete and the diversity plan is created, there’s the possibility that another survey will be given out to test the climate and see if it’s changed: to see if Pierce is doing a better job at being inclusive, Bowers said.
“All students who have an interest really have an opportunity to weigh in,” Bowers said. “In the end, all this is about them – it’s about their success.”
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