Eastern Michigan University has renovated its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department within the past year resulting in many changes.
These changes include the addition of new coordinators and the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer that was temporarily held by Associate Provost Doris Fields. Now helmed by the new CDO Dwight Hamilton, who joined this fall semester, the DEI department is looking to increase its efforts in assisting the EMU community.
The DEI department's focus is to empower and support students and staff who come from marginalized communities or face challenges. At Eastern Michigan, the DEI department includes multiple programs that are all situated in the Student Center. These units include the Mentorship and Guidance in College coordinated by Raven Wood, the Women’s Resource Center which is currently without a coordinator, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood program led by coordinator Janis Strickland, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center coordinated by Emma Wuetrich, the Center of Race and Ethnicity which is without a coordinator, and the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response office led by Matthew Gregory.
CDO Hamilton is in charge of overseeing all of these departments. However, he sees his role as much more than that.
"It really is to identify any barriers that prohibit any Eastern community member. Whether faculty, staff or students, any barrier that keeps them from being able to fully participate within the institution based on one of many identities that we all hold to identify those barriers and to break them down," Hamilton said.
Which barriers to focus on can vary between each unit. For instance, Wuetrich who recently became the LGBT Resource Center coordinator in May of 2023 has a few plans in mind.
"Right now on my list is to look into the system for a student to change their name. There have been troubling user experiences of changing their name in the system and having it reflected on rosters or email addresses. I'm just kind of trying to get familiar with what the students experience in doing that, and seeing what I can do to help," Wuetrich said. "Ultimately the goal is to contribute to a culture of equity on campus. And so figuring out what those metrics are is going to be important."
As for Gregory who joined in February of 2023, he is looking to make community members more aware of the Title IX process and the resources available to them.
“We're moving to a new training program as well online, it's more interactive and it's more up to date. It's not just the same thing over and over again. There'll be several different types of training,” Gregory said. “I'm working with the marketing team to develop a training a session. I'm basically explaining the Eastern Michigan University process so that way people don't feel nervous about what happens when I make a report or a report gets filed because I said something to a faculty member because they're mandated, they're not nervous about what's going to happen.”
Kevin Williams, the director of the DEI program and one of the longer-tenured leaders sees moving all these programs and coordinates under one department as the right decision.
"I think we have people that want to be here, want to engage, more importantly, want to see the success of our students beyond EMU. Getting your degree is one part of it, but we want to see you be successful in your field and we want to celebrate those things with you, celebrate those successes," Williams said. "Building this team from the ground up because that's what I actually feel like we're doing one brick at a time, one coordinator at a time, and they have to be super excited to work with students and they have to want to be in this environment."
Hamilton shared this enthusiasm and is looking forward to helping the Eastern community with this staff.
"I mean, top to bottom we have a group of individuals who are committed to the work that they do, committed to improving the environment for the Eastern community. I think there's a balance. Everyone is relatively new within a department, although some are not necessarily new to Eastern," Hamilton said. "Although I didn't hire any of the individuals that are currently in my department, I really would have had that choice been provided to me. I am really thrilled to have the group that I have."