Student Services Leadership EDI Commitments

Ruby Hayden

As a leader at LWTech it is vital that I acknowledge our organizational hierarchies, policies and procedures, and “norms” of daily interaction are rooted in a white supremacist society and therefore need to be examined and changed to support the dignity, autonomy, and safety of BIPOC individuals. As a white, cis-, queer woman with learning disabilities who grew up in poverty, exploring the intersections of my own identity is crucial to leading with empathy and vulnerability. In my professional work as well as my personal life I commit to:

  • Demonstrating transparency regarding my own learning and actions I take.
  • Nurturing a culture within student services where employees feel supported in taking anti-racist actions and naming problems that block anti-racist work.
  • Amplifying the voices of BIPOC and other individuals experiencing oppression within the community.
  • Eliminating equity gaps among students and employees.
  • Ensuring ongoing and meaningful EDI and anti-racist professional development opportunities for student services employees; both to learn and unlearn.
  • Supporting the Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in their vital role to move LWTech forward as a college and a community.
  • Striving to embody the quote from Ijeoma Oluo: “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including yourself. And it is the only way forward.”

Larisa Akselrud

The Enrollment Services and Assessment Team is frequently the first point of contact for questions, directions, and assistance for students, faculty, staff, and community members.  We have all grown up under a different set of circumstances, and how we move through the world is impacted by our life experiences and our privileges.  My everyday work is dedicated to the dismantling of processes and procedures that could be viewed as barriers to our goals of an educational institution of higher learning where respect, equity, diversity, inclusion, and connectedness are practiced, expected, experienced, observed, and valued every day.

  • I am dedicated to understanding, identifying, and eliminating equity gaps in our admission, assessment, registration, and other daily processes.
  • I am devoted to improving equity by increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of Enrollment Services
  • I value a diverse environment where equity, inclusion, and connectedness are practiced, expected, experienced, and observed every day.
  • I am committed to participation in professional development activities focusing on systemic racism and creating an anti-racist institution.
  • I am honored to work with the great diverse group of people here at LWTech, learning from them and listening to their experiences.

Demetra Biros

I believe that education and employment is a pathway to racial, social, and economic justice. I believe that systemic racism and implicit bias prevents equitable access to education and employment. I believe that we have the power and obligation to change these inequities. I believe that as a white woman of privilege, I have much to learn from the lived experiences of others and I can use that knowledge, combined with my position, to impact change.  I am committed to:

  • Listening and learning from the experiences of others; intentionally quieting my own voice and amplifying the voices of others in order to change our trajectory towards racial, social, and economic justice
  • Challenging policies, procedures, and practices within the Workforce Development department, at LWTech, and in our state and federal programs in order to eliminate barriers to education and employment
  • Actively and intentionally including equity, diversity, and inclusion as part of the WFD team and individual staff goals, including EDI discussions in WFD team meetings, requiring EDI related professional development of all staff, and aligning WFD with the goal of equitable access to education and employment
  • Changing the lives of the students we serve and future generations through a holistic approach that recognizes the intersectionality and unique experiences of each student, focuses on closing the opportunity gaps for historically marginalized, low-income, under-represented students, and creates pathways to a future that includes education of choice and endless employment opportunities for all

Kimberly Geer

I commit to the work of equity and dismantling systemic racism at LWTech by treating each person I encounter with respect, dignity, and compassion. I will strive to be approachable and take the time to listen to another person’s story should they share it with me. Each decision I make will be made thoroughly, carefully, fairly, and without bias. If I were to recognize implicit bias or racism within myself or witness it in others, I will have the courage to call it out. I will be teachable as I learn more about how to serve others better.

Jayne Heyde

I am dedicated to working to open the door to opportunity for those for whom the door is closed or heavy to move.  I believe that knowledge, education, and training are important keys to opportunity fulfillment. We live in a society that regularly and systemically devalues those who are not white and wealthy. This devaluation acts as a firm lock on the door. I pledge to keep my mind and my heart open to learning how to best serve all students at LWTech in order to afford access to the keys and ability to use the keys to opportunity’s door. This includes participating in workshops, seminars, trainings and book clubs that the college offers and offerings in the community at large. As I listen to our students’ stories and recognize the honor and privilege of hearing them, I will strive to be the best support I can be to all our students.  I am grateful to have my own opportunity to learn, to grow and to work at an institution that is striving to be equitable, diverse and inclusive.

Amber Hisatake

My commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion work in both in my personal and professional life stems from my personal experiences as a gay, BIPOC, woman.  First and foremost, as human beings, and secondly as employees of a state college, we have a moral obligation to create an inclusive and diverse environment for students, staff, and faculty that promotes equity in every sense of the word.  I have first handedly experienced numerous incidents of racism, sexism, and discrimination based on sexual orientation throughout my personal and professional life and feel quite strongly about the ways in which our college approaches anti-racism work.  With this in mind, my commitment to EDI work on our campus to promote anti-racism and dismantle and combat systemic racism, is an especially personal one for me, because I also live and breathe this every day as a BIPOC individual outside of the workplace.  My bottom line on EDI work is that it is hard, yet vital. Uncomfortable, yet necessary.  And lastly, infuriating, yet more urgent than ever.  

My professional commitment to EDI work includes the following:

  • First and foremost, to lead by example through honesty, courage, patience, and vulnerability.
  • To support and hold up the voices of our marginalized and underrepresented students. 
  • To keep an open-mind and listen to differing views that challenge mine.
  • To take action when action is needed (walk-the-walk, and not just talk-the-talk).
  • To continue to openly share my honest opinions as a BIPOC individual even when this opposes the majority group. 
  • To help others “unlearn” the things they need to, that are necessary to move towards aligning with the college’s goal of an anti-racist environment that is truly welcoming and supportive of all.

Darcy Kipnis

My work with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion has spanned my college and educational career and has centered on working with students who have been historically marginalized in higher education institutions. The recent killings of innocent Black people at the hands of White police officers and resulting civil unrest has further highlighted the necessary work that must be done to disrupt systems of oppression. As a White woman who is benefited from working within those systems, I am compelled to continuously examine my own beliefs and actively work towards dismantling systemic racism both individually and by joining my colleagues as we work towards truly being a Community of Belonging. My commitment to equity will be demonstrated by the following:

  • Actively reviewing available data that highlights disparities in funding sources for students of color on college campuses and barriers to aid retention. I will use this information to address policies, procedures, and practices on campus that need to be changed or altered. 
  • Support emerging state work on more equitable distribution of funds and the re-structuring of discretionary funding for both student emergencies and long-term financial support while the student completes their educational goal.
  • Engage in anti-racism work as an individual, with my family, and with the college community through workshops, trainings, readings, and events. I am willing to be uncomfortable, have difficult conversations, and actively listen to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color when they share their experiences.

Mony Loeum

My commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion work begins with my personal experience as a woman and person of color.  I have firsthand knowledge of what it means to be first-generation and understand the challenges of growing up as a refugee and immigrant.  I have faced racism and discrimination.  I come from a low-income (socio-economic insecurity) family.  Most of you did not know I experienced language barriers going into Kindergarten.  There is a lot of work to do or myself and the communities in which I belong.  And I belong to so many that it is hard to navigate them all.  The work has not and will not be easy but it needs to be done.  Going against the dominant culture is hard because it is like going against a fast flowing river.  Even so, the work still needs to be done.

Over the course of the year and during the Administrators of Color Leadership Program, I learned that I have given up a lot of my ‘cultural abundance’ or minimized it because I was upholding white privilege/white supremacy ideas/norms because I was taught I have to adapt or be a certain way in order to be ‘successful’, to earn respect, and to advance in my career.  I had to re-learn authenticity, learning to undo beliefs, and learning to see things how I saw before I adopted the norms and ideals of the systems that perpetuate oppression.  It took me a long time to process what I was thinking and feeling.  It is almost shocking and difficult to come to terms with that.  I am going to make mistakes along the way and I do not have all the answers but I will work to help find them.  Thus, my commitment to EDI comes in two forms that may overlap:

Personal:

  • I commit to examining my own biases and privilege. And to reflect on my perspectives or lens and how I may impact those around me. 
  • I commit to learning and growing from race based conversations. I commit to educating others about race, power, and privilege.
  • I commit to reflecting on how I may have upheld white supremacy/white privilege ideals and norms.
  • I commit to learning and allowing myself to be vulnerable to share my ideas and perspectives. It can be hard while reflecting to try to share on a whim because there is a level of vulnerability to be able to be comfortable enough to share in a room full of colleagues or ‘strangers’ that may or may not have the same perspectives, ideals, levels of understanding in EDI work. 
  • I commit to being my authentic and genuine self
  • I commit to staying engaged in EDI work and embrace the challenges I may experience personally and professionally

Professional:

  • I commit to examining ways I can reduce or eliminate barriers for all students through analyzing processes and procedures within my purview and collaborate with others to do the same
  • I commit to advocating for first generation students, BIPOC students and colleagues, students that are underserved and underrepresented, undocumented students, marginalized students which include students with disabilities, formerly incarcerated, and non-traditional students I will accomplish this by actively listening and responding with empathy and compassion
  • I commit to leading the college become an anti-racist college,
  • I commit to continue being actively engaged in anti-racist training and conversations
  • I commit to promoting access, equity, and inclusion to all students

Casey Melnrick

My equity work centers on creating accessible, antiracist entry points to the college by building a welcoming, supportive, and adaptive platform that assists every student as they embark on or return to their academic journey. I commit to:

  • Learning more about antiracist practices and implementing them in my professional and personal life
  • Recognizing bias, both implicit and explicit, in myself and others, and speaking against it
  • Meeting students where they are, helping to clear barriers to enrollment and education
  • Working with local educators in the K-12 system to establish antiracist pipelines into programs that offer prevailing wage jobs upon completion

Katie Peacock

As a Student Affairs professional, social justice is at the center of my work. As a practitioner, I seek to actively and purposefully enact social justice in daily practice. I am committed to LWTech’s goal of becoming an anti-racist college and am actively engaged in dismantling systemic racism.

The history and lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) informs my personal and professional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Through my undergraduate studies in American Ethnic Studies and Diversity, I had the immense privilege to study and research key aspects and issues of race and ethnicity from the perspective of BIPOC historians and communities. I feel an immense responsibility due to this knowledge and am committed to dismantling systemic racism through:

  • Amplifying the history, lived experiences, voices, and contributions of BIPOC
  • Acknowledging and reflecting on mine and my ancestor’s roles in creating and maintaining a white supremacist culture that values and promotes whiteness
  • Utilizing my voice and positional power to advocate for systemic changes that have historically disproportionately impacted BIPOC communities

I am committed to earning the title of “ally” from systemically underrepresented communities through my daily words and behaviors. Earning the title of “ally” is not a passive process where one entitles themselves because of the care they feel for a community. It is a title we must work towards earning every single day by the communities we claim allyship towards. I commit to earning this title through:

  • Promoting the leadership, participation, and contribution of BIPOC voices and perspectives at all levels of the institution
  • Participating personally in LWTech’s anti-racism work formally through participation in the EDI Council and Bias Response Team and informally through such means as collaboration, conversation, and disruption
  • Practicing humility to seek and accept feedback that informs my behavior and practice
  • Consistent engagement in personal reflection and professional development on equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Acting to disrupt and uproot ignorance, racism, and inequity

I am passionate about the role that community and technical colleges play in increasing access to higher education and serving their local communities. As a first generation college student and community college graduate, I know first-hand the impact that community and technical colleges can have. I am committed to the pursuit of an educational system where every student who seeks higher education has equitable access, support, and resources to reach their goals.

Intersectionality is at the core of my commitment to social justice. I commit to holistic personal and professional practices that acknowledge and value the various unique identities our community represents. I am committed to the success of all LWTech students, including historically underrepresented student populations such as those who identify as: Black, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, LGBTQ+, undocumented, low-income, and first-generation.

I emphatically believe Black lives matter and stand with Black communities.

Erin Smith

My equity work centers on improving the persistence, graduation, and transfer rates of first-generation to college, low-income students, and students with disabilities, many of which are students of color. This includes providing one-on-one academic and mentoring support to work to eliminate equity gaps for TRIO’s participants so they may find success in their chosen career fields and/or pursue a bachelor’s degree. My work in TRIO guides students in navigating on-campus processes and systems that prove barriers to their success.

  • I commit to continuing the best practice efforts of TRIO at LWTech and nationally to eliminate equity gaps for first-generation, low-income students, and students with disabilities.
  • I commit to evaluate TRIO’s existing services at LWTech for any perceived or inherent bias that would further disadvantage our participants, and work to resolve any such disparities.
  • I commit to continuing my work on the Formerly Incarcerated Students taskforce to remove systemic barriers to completion for formerly incarcerated students.
  • I commit to continue listening with empathy and compassion as others choose to share their genuine selves, hurts, and frustrations surrounding issues of race in conversations with me.
  • I commit to continuing to educate myself around issues of racism, and engage in the campus-wide courageous conversations and anti-racism trainings.

Tien Do

My equity work centers on providing support services and eliminating barriers for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds such as first generation, low income, and/or students with disabilities.

I am committed to increase access and success for students from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds to promote college readiness, program/course completion, persistence, graduation, and transfer.

Sheila Walton

Everyone’s journey with diversity, equity, and inclusion is individual but tempered by their socialization in a system stilted to reward Whiteness and privilege. As a White woman living within this system I am committed to dismantling these systems of oppression. Leading with anti-racism is the first step to ending racism and racist systems. My educational journey to learn how my identity impacts BIPOC students and colleagues is my responsibility but shared among people with the same desire to end systemic-racism, and therefore requires time, resources, and continuous commitment. With this societal backdrop and understanding I bring this into my LWTech work within Student Programs. Committing to anti-racist, diversity, and inclusion work, I want to:

  • Ensure our departmental processes supplant systemic racism by developing inclusive experiences for all students;
  • Assure our student leaders learn about their own identity and how it may impact their work as a student leader;
  • Direct our professional staff continue to learn about diversity, inclusion, anti-racist, and anti-Blackness work;
  • Reflect back to LWTech administration the global need of our students to end racism at the college;
  • Disrupt racism when I see it happen by our staff or students, and then work on corrective action when necessary.

Heather Wildes

As the Director of the Early Learning center, my work with equity, diversity and inclusion centers around creating a positive social and emotional environment that supports each teacher, child and family’s culture, language, ethnicity and family structure. As a leader to my team, I will continue to support the anti-racist work being done at LWTech, participate in courageous conversations and identify implicit bias and racism. Should it occur within myself or others, I will have the courage to say something. When the children notice differences in race, gender, ethnicity and individual’s abilities, I will teach them to place a positive value on those differences and treat all people with respect.

I commit to the following:

  • Continually reevaluate ways to integrate an anti-bias approach to our program and dismantle the preschool to prison pipeline
  • Engage in professional development opportunities where both myself and my team can self-reflect, learn about our own identity and understand how our perceptions and experiences impact the children in our care.
  • Work with the teaching staff to create an early childhood curriculum that facilitates children’s development of self-awareness, positive social identities, recognition of unfairness, and how to act against discriminatory actions
  • Provide parents and families in our program opportunities to share their own values and expectations, provide feedback and learn ways to support their child at home.