By Hannah Smith, Feb. 22, 2022

Cal Poly Pomona hosted virtual open forums from Feb.10 through Feb.15 with the final candidates for the position of presidential associate for inclusion and chief diversity officer.

The forums come one year after it was announced that Nicole Butts, the previous presidential associate for inclusion and chief diversity officer, would be departing from her position. The search for the next candidate began immediately after with the search committee led by Alejandro Covarrubias, the executive director of student inclusion and belonging.

During the forums, Covarrubias defined the position as a member of President Soraya Coley’s cabinet that will “ensure elements of diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded throughout the implementation of the institutional mission, vision and strategic plan. The presidential associate works to catalyze, facilitate and evaluate institutional change and works collaboratively to ensure that equity and inclusion are at the core of campus practices, policies, culture and measure of excellence.”

All candidates were asked about the challenges they saw Cal Poly Pomona facing in the next few years and their priorities in addressing these challenges.

The first candidate, Nyree Gray, currently serves as the associate vice president and chief civil rights officer at Claremont McKenna College. Gray spoke on the challenge of adjusting to a post pandemic academic experience.

“I want to be able to be in a space in which we can talk about the challenge it is to one, be asked to do things that you didn’t intend as a result of this pandemic, and then try to find the energy to transition to some kind of medium where we take the advantage of what we just endured and keep some of that,” said Gray. “We were innovative in that space so how do we hone in on that?”

Gray also emphasized her commitment to student engagement and providing consistent and reliable communication with the campus.

The second candidate, Bobbie Porter, currently serves as the chief diversity officer and assistant vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at California State University Fullerton. Porter emphasized that equity is her priority in addressing all the challenges she named.

“We educate a lot of people and provide access to a lot of people,” said Porter. “We have to figure out how to do so in a way that is equitable. We have to figure out, how do we serve our students? How do we plant a seed of leadership in all of our students so they see themselves as moving our society in such a way that is responsive to the way they see the world?”

Porter emphasized her argument for a more diverse and equitable faculty and student body by citing the U.S. Census Bureau’s prediction that by 2025, 50% of all college students will belong to a racial minority.

The third candidate, Tasha Souza, is currently the director of the Boise State Uniting for Inclusion and Leadership in Diversity program at Boise State University. Souza focused on equity mindedness, leadership and decision making in addressing challenges facing CPP.

“Diversity alone will not eliminate inequity,” said Souza. “If higher education will ever be truly equitable, our campuses need to be more equity minded, to provide high quality polytechnic education.”

Souza also discussed the importance of diverse staff, stating that increasing faculty diversity is one of the most common demands at student protests.

All three candidates expressed a passion for open communication and creating a diverse staff to create mentors to support the diverse campus of CPP.

Brandon Tuck, Cal Poly Pomona’s admissions director and member of the search committee, expressed his hopes for the new presidential association for inclusion and chief diversity officer.

“I hope that this is an opportunity for growth for the campus,” said Tuck. “I’m looking forward to seeing what someone brings to this role in terms of innovation, in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion work.”

All open forum sessions were recorded and can be viewed online as well as the biographies and resumes of each candidate.

Feature image by Nicolas Hernandez

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