The Efroymson Diversity Center is undergoing some cosmetic changes.
The Center is getting a fresh paint job. Old books—like ones on how to update a resume using Word Perfect—are being removed and replaced with new ones. Dry erase boards, comfortable furniture, and communal spaces are in the works, along with an expanded prayer and meditation room.
But the physical transformation happening in Butler University’s Atherton Union is far from the only shift the Diversity Center has been experiencing over the last few months. With three new staff members and a brand new mission, the Center, known around campus as the DC, is ready for a makeover of different sorts. Instead of being largely viewed as just a physical space with a fixed location, the Center has set out to make its presence felt all around campus and the wider Indianapolis community.
“We are mobile,” emphasizes Tiffany Reed, the new Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.
In the spring, Student Affairs conducted a study of the DC and its programs, including an outside consultant, feedback from more than 600 students, and stakeholders from more than 20 departments across campus. Three main themes emerged: They needed to address the physical space, increase outreach, and staff hired must be up to date on best practices when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The physical transformation is underway. Three new hires have been made. And outreach is just one item on the Center’s long list of goals.
“Butler’s founding mission was focused on diversity and inclusivity,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross, who led the DC study. “Given Ovid Butler and his role as an abolitionist who propagated the need for education for all, and access to education, it is imperative that we continue to work and strive to create conditions where all students can be successful and all students can thrive. The Diversity Center is critical to that mission. It is a hub for learning outside the classroom. It helps as we work to create and sustain an intentionally inclusive campus environment.”
The first key to bringing the mission to life was hiring three new faces of the DC. In addition to Reed, Gina Forrest, who served as interim Director of the Center since February after longtime Director Valerie Davidson retired, has been named Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Thalia Anguiano has been named Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.
Forrest will primarily focus on partnering with others across campus to enhance the student experience through diversity, equity, and inclusion. She will work closely with students, staff, and faculty, facilitating new workshops and trainings on how to have crucial conversations. Forrest will also look beyond campus, working to create meaningful partnerships throughout the wider Indianapolis area. She will consider the resources Butler provides to its students, as well as how the University responds to bias incidents, for example, to ensure appropriate support.
“This work is so much more encompassing than the actual Center,” Forrest says. “We want diversity, equity, and inclusion to be part of the University’s identity. By having all these different initiatives happening in tandem, it becomes proactive work, not just a reactive thing we say we are doing.”
Reed will work collaboratively with faculty, and the Office of Admission to hone in on student success and retention. Reed will focus on being intentional about supporting students.
For example, this year’s Dawg Days 2.0, which strives to create a welcoming environment and provide connections, resources, and programs for students who are underrepresented at Butler, will include a wider range of students, such as first-generation students, 21st century scholars, multicultural students, students of color, and LGBTQ students.
“It is important to create intentional spaces for students of color, or for the LBGTQ community, but it is also important for spaces to intersect because many of our students are also first generation or biracial. They want to know how they fit in at a predominantly white institution,” says Reed, who as a student at IUPUI often studied and hung out at Butler’s Diversity Center because IUPUI didn’t have one.
Because of her experiences at IUPUI—fighting to get a Diversity Center of their own as an undergraduate and seeing firsthand how helpful it was to have a space on Butler’s campus—she also hopes to create partnerships with other universities.
Reed has also been busy revamping the mentorship program, now dubbed the DC Squad. It will be much more robust, encouraging ongoing relationships instead of having mentors meet with their mentees just once or twice a semester.
Anguiano will focus on programming and working with the student organizations that are housed in the DC.
“I plan on challenging our student orgs within the Center to work much more collaboratively with one another to enhance dialogue and bring different perspectives from different lenses,” she says. “If it is Hispanic Heritage month, we might look at what it means to be Latinx and part of the LGBTQ community. We want to encompass different identities and bring more collaboration.”
As much as their roles differ, they will all work as one unit, striving to bring the mission of the DC to all parts of Butler’s campus, and beyond.
The Center’s physical space might be getting a new makeover, but in reality, if everything is working, the DC will be traveling to a building near you soon, collaborating with faculty across campus, visiting classrooms, partnering in many different ways.
“The goal is for you to feel connected to the DC as a collective unit,” Reed says. “It is about utilizing all of our different powers to move the space beyond this space. For us, the Center could be in Jordan Hall, a residence hall, a sorority house. We want it to travel wherever it is needed. That’s the ultimate goal around diversity, equity, and inclusion. That way we are reaching everyone.”