Interview Introduces New Assistant Dean of Diversity & Intercultural Development
When I saw the description about the assistant deanship at MICA, I thought, 'This is it.'
The College's new Assistant Dean of Diversity and Intercultural Development, who arrives on campus July 7, answered questions about moving from a large, public university to a small, private college of art, working with faculty to bring diversity into the classroom, and connecting with MICA students on campus, off campus, and even online.
You arrive in Baltimore from Norfolk, Va., and Old Dominion University , where you were the assistant director of multicultural services and the coordinator of the Hugo A. Owens African American Cultural Center. Why did you pursue the new assistant dean position at MICA?
I have a natural love for art. My dad is a pastor by training, but he's also a woodworker and sculptor. I started taking calligraphy classes at college, where one of my professors encouraged me to start oil painting. At Old Dominion, I coordinated a lot of festivals and events that broke down the divide to show commonalities through art, music and food. When I saw the description about the assistant deanship at MICA, I thought, "This is it." It just bridges some of those artistic abilities with the diversity work I had already been doing.
What aspects of the MICA culture do you think will be particularly challenging or rewarding?
With more than 14,000 undergraduate students alone, Old Dominion is very large and it continues to grow. MICA, with a total undergraduate and graduate student population of fewer than 2,000, gives me the opportunity to make real personal connections with the African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native-American, and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender students here. Its size should also help me connect more with faculty to assist them in bringing diversity into the classroom. I want to explore with faculty and students the cultural values of their work and how not to lose their identities while growing as artists.
Is it true that you began connecting with MICA students even before you accepted the assistant deanship?
I found some MICA students on Facebook and began to have a dialogue with them. I asked them what their needs were and used it as a resource. One student wrote me, "I'm a black student; however that doesn't mean my art is just black." Art reflects the community they come from, their experiences. How do we come to understand that?
I also met a MICA student who invited me to an exhibition opening of her work in Norfolk this summer. I encouraged some of my students at Old Dominion to go with me. And I'm talking up MICA's graduate programs to them.
It seems like you work hard to meet students on their own terms.
A college campus is dynamic. We should never get stuck communicating in a certain way just because that's the way we've always done it. My Old Dominion students introduced me to Facebook, which is a major tool for communication on that campus. Now I'm using it to establish connections with MICA students.
When it comes to event-planning, I'm always the one who is out there with the students, creating and building sets, doing whatever needs to get done. I'm a hands-on type person. I can't sit in an office all day.
You hold a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in clinical psychology from Virginia State University. Earlier in your career, you worked in the field of public health and at a department of corrections. Why do you prefer higher education?
Of the 17 years that I've been working, higher education is the field that gives me the flexibility to make real changes in people's lives. I really enjoy working within a college community to promote a healthy campus environment in regards to diversity.
Speaking of making changes, at MICA you will be responsible for the creation of a comprehensive diversity and intercultural program.
I will be more involved with policy and procedures at MICA than I was at Old Dominion. I will assume an active role in the advancement of diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice within the campus. The ability to impact the educational process and the community is so dynamic and exciting, and I'm ready.