Diversity and inclusion on college campuses has been a growing requirement for college administrators who want to see a more welcoming campus community for their students.
Hendrix College has been working to do its own part in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment on campus, most notably through the creation of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.
Dr. Dionne Jackson is the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion which was established over the summer as part of President Bill Tsutsui’s Strategic Planning Initiative. During its first semester on campus, the group has made significant achievements to move towards its intended vision of a more inclusive environment here at Hendrix College.
The office strives to meet its goal for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the greater Conway community. For Hendrix students, Dr. Jackson says she is proud of the work the office has done in the Aspire Scholars program where freshmen and sophomore students who are Pell Grant eligible are provided the support and resources to allow them to be successful at Hendrix.
Dr. Jackson additionally cited the creation of a working group in Student Senate that has been formed to create greater diversity through initiatives such as an endowed lectureship where a series of lectures and trainings on campus will help Hendrix College approach diversity more effectively.
In order to increase diversity in faculty and staff as well, Dr. Jackson stated that a Faculty Diversity Concerns Committee has been established which in part holds diversity workshops on issues like race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. The office also plays a role in the faculty search committee to talk about biases and ways to help search committees promote diversity.
Dr. Jackson highlighted several other items that the office has been a part of, including an Advocacy Fair in the fall where groups in Central Arkansas which work in advocacy could meet and talk with Hendrix students.
In the Conway community, Dr. Jackson represents Hendrix College in the Conway Community Race Relations Committee which works with the other universities in Conway as well as several African-American ministers to help Conway be a more inclusive community. Dr. Jackson stated the importance of this work because it is important for students to feel like they are in an inclusive environment on and off campus.
Hendrix College places an emphasis on diversity across all boards and in all areas. Dr. Jackson stated that diversity is so vital to a university because of the way it can challenge students’ beliefs.
“We can’t challenge our students to be critical thinkers if everyone, in every class thinks exactly how they think,” Dr. Jackson said.
Dr. Jackson also commented on the importance of that inclusion plays in helping students take ownership in their community.
“We want everyone to be a stakeholder in our community,” Jackson said. “It’s really about valuing what people bring and helping students to know that, yes, I am a member of this community.”
She believes that this mission will never be complete.
“My goal is to think about the diversity that exists nationwide…We are aiming to be and to reflect what our nation looks like. With that goal as our nation changes, that is a good benchmark for us to keep in mind,” Jackson said.
Students can get involved in diversity concerns by connecting with student organizations. They can be faith-based, address issues of gender and sexuality, or represent international interests. Dr. Jackson stated the importance of not being afraid to get outside of your own identity.
Dr. Jackson strongly believes that her role on campus is a proactive one. The support of the administration and the campus allows for this kind of work to be so successful she states. Without that support from the community and without that emphasis on inclusivity and diversity, creating real change would not be possible.