Q&A with Dean Fletcher checks in on diversity efforts
November 14, 2011
Scott Fletcher, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, is currently serving as the interim chief diversity officer for Lewis & Clark. In this role, Fletcher advocates for diversity efforts at the institutional level and assists with local initiatives across the three schools. The Source caught up with Fletcher for an update on his plans for the year and the progress he has made this fall.
How did you decide to take on the role of Chief Diversity Officer? Is this a temporary or permanent role for you?
From the beginning of my career in higher education, my research and teaching has focused on the social context of education and particularly on issues related to social identity—race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, and the many other elements that make us who we are and, to a significant extent, shape the meaning and consequences of our interactions with others. As I began to take on more leadership roles—directing a program, chairing a department, and becoming a dean—I increasingly focused on these issues within the higher education institutions where I worked. I was very pleased to be asked to serve as Lewis & Clark’s interim chief diversity officer this year. We have faculty, staff, and students who are so deeply committed to this work and who are helping to make this campus a supportive community that can profoundly engage the complexities and challenges of diversity. The position is currently a one-year appointment, and the discussion of how to fill it in the future is ongoing.
What are your priorities for the months ahead?
Celestino Limas, our former dean of students and the institution’s first chief diversity officer, did an extraordinary job introducing the role of CDO to the campus and bringing together faculty, staff, and students around key issues related to diversity. I am very pleased to be building on this strong foundation. Over the summer and early in the fall term, I worked with the Diversity Advisory Committee to understand the issues that were in progress at the time of Celestino’s departure and to get committee members’ advice on how to move this work forward. After several meetings with the committee and discussions with various members of the community, I made the decision to create a new campus-wide Diversity Advisory Council, which will include key decision makers in the institution and provide a venue for strategic thinking about diversity issues. I am confident that this new council, which will meet for the first time later this fall, will deepen our diversity work and more fully integrate efforts across the various units of the campus. The initial charge of the council will include a review of priorities and an assessment of what we want to accomplish over the coming year. The year already feels like it’s flying by, but I am hoping that we will quickly build momentum behind this new council and move forward with a substantive and productive agenda.
Can you provide an update on the work of the Accessibility Task Force? What progress has the group made, and what are its main goals for this year?
I met with the Accessibility Task Force for the first time in October and am happy to report that I will join the group for the rest of my term as CDO. I believe strongly that accessibility is an essential diversity issue and that the work of the task force will make a significant contribution to the broader discussion. I was particularly impressed with the progress made by working groups within the task force—from universal design to facilities planning, there is great energy among the group to bring recommendations to the community that will improve access to the many wonderful experiences that the college offers. I look forward to participating in these discussions and bringing the recommendations of the task force forward through the decision-making structures of the college.
The first-year undergraduate class includes an increase in the percentage of students of color. What steps are being taken to retain students from underrepresented groups and cultivate the on-campus resources necessary to their success?
Our undergraduate admissions office did a great job bringing a diverse class to campus this fall. We all recognize that diversity is an essential component of learning for everyone, and I am grateful for the hard work that went into this achievement. We also know that the effort to support and retain students of color is equally important, and there is a lot going on in our Division of Student Life and elsewhere to make it a reality. Our interim deans of students, Tricia Brand and Jeff Feld-Gore, are incredible leaders in this area and have put together some very impressive programming with their staff. These include: Great Expectations, a pre-orientation retreat to support first year students in their transition to college; the expansion of new student orientation with Beyond NSO, which focuses on the first six weeks of new students’ arrival on campus; and a variety of groups that support students of color, including LINCS (Lewis & Clark Intercultural Network for Connecting Students), MOSAIC (Multicultural Organizations Seeking an Inclusive Environment), and the LC Alumni of Color Network. There is also significant support for increasing student-faculty engagement through this year’s Strategic Initiative Fund. Taken together, these efforts represent a solid institutional commitment to supporting the academic success of our undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups.
How is Lewis & Clark strengthening ties with Portland communities of color?
There is a great deal of important work being done by faculty, staff, and students in Portland’s communities of color, and I think we need to do a better job letting people know about it. At the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, for example, Assistant Professor Andraé Brown is doing very interesting work with local faith communities on domestic violence prevention (recently covered in The Skanner: http://at.lclark.edu/utBmn2). Professor Brown’s work examines the intersection of race, conceptions of masculinity, and the legacy of oppression in African American communities. J.B. Kim, assistant dean of diversity and academic resources at Lewis & Clark Law School, has been a member of the Oregon State Bar’s Diversity Section since its creation and has served as the committee’s chair. The Career Services Office at the law school regularly partners with groups like the Oregon Minority Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association to sponsor local presentations and networking meetings. Our strong partnership with the Black United Fund is especially evident at the College of Arts and Sciences. The Black United Fund (BUF) is a community-based work-study site for CAS students and the college provides scholarships for students selected in collaboration with the BUF Scholarship Committee. All of these partnerships have deep roots in the community, and there is a lot of compelling work underway to strengthen and expand these efforts.