Diversity officers from Walla Walla University, Walla Walla Community College, and Whitman College have come together to form a tri-college support group for students, faculty, and staff from various backgrounds.
The purpose of this group is to provide a supportive community devoted to listening, encouraging, and affirming minorities within the local academic area. The group follows a relaxed structure with a focus on discussion and working together. The goal is to provide a space for those who may be marginalized to be a part of something bigger, something influential.
“Having colleagues that are on the same journey, who understand the struggles and who understand the joys” of diversity is what Pedrito Maynard-Reid, assistant to the president for diversity at WWU, considers one of the greatest blessings of this group. It’s good to have people who “can share freely without having to explain or justify because they have been down that road already.”
The group began almost four years ago when Maynard-Reid met with the community college’s chief diversity officer, Margarita Banderas, along with the vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Whitman College, Thomas Witherspoon.
Shortly after the first meeting, an event was held where all three diversity officers met with student leaders from diversity clubs across the three campuses. On the WWU campus this included clubs like Black Student Christian Forum, LatinX, Asian Pacific Islander Club, and First Nations. This allowed club leaders to meet with affinity groups from other colleges, engage with a larger community, and share events. They were also able to brainstorm ideas for involving the larger student body as a whole.
COVID-19 has caused multiple challenges with growing and maintaining this group, but that hasn’t stopped them from meeting when possible and where possible. During fall quarter 2021, the support group met at Kiwanis Park in College Place to have food and play games. Ultimately Maynard-Reid hopes that the tri-college support group can become a flourishing community that includes and empowers students as well as faculty and staff.
Posted January 27, 2022