DEI Office sets emphasis on inclusion

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Guilford’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI Office) has begun a restructuring program which includes additional staffing and reorganization in an effort to bolster the campus’ initiative to create an inclusive environment.

An umbrella organization, under which resides the Intercultural Engagement Center, the Title IX and Equal Opportunity Office, the Bonner Center for Community Learning and Engagement and the Wiser Justice Program, the DEI Office was established last year in order to improve the campus environment for marginalized community members.

Now, the office has begun this reorganization so that it may reach the goals of Guilford’s 2018-2023 Campus Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

“This plan will shape the policies of the College as they relate to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Interim Associate Vice President of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Krishauna Hines-Gaither. “We are looking into starting some critical dialogues and critical conversations around topics of difference of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, etcetera.”

One portion of the DEI Office’s five-year plan includes the redesigning of the Intercultural Education Center (IEC). Formerly the Multicultural Education Department, the IEC was created to provide enhanced diversity and inclusion training for Guilford faculty, staff and students. The DEI Office’s plan also includes the extension of the Wiser Justice Program’s course offerings to an additional correctional facility in Polkton, NC.

In addition to the restructuring of its programs, the DEI Office is also increasing its staffing. Guilford hired Immigrant Student Support Coordinator Liz Torres Melendez in May, 2018 in order to provide resources for undocumented and immigrant students.

“One of the first things I did was create a webpage to serve as a resource for incoming, prospective or current immigrant students,” said Melendez. “It has a FAQ page for undocumented students for things like, ‘Am I eligible for financial aid?’ and, ‘Will my status be shared?’ Another resource that we’ve added is what’s called UndocuAlly training. This is a training for faculty, staff and students to learn how they can be effective and appropriate allies to the undocumented community.”

Melendez is also looking to the future and seeking out ways she can better serve undocumented students at Guilford.

“I really hope to provide more financial help to immigrant, undocumented and international students,” Melendez said. “I know that a big problem that a lot of undocumented and international students who don’t have social security numbers face is that they don’t qualify for federal aid and a lot of scholarships exclude them, so they have a problem filling in the financial gaps to be able to be students at Guilford.”

Guilford also hired LGBTQIA Coordinator Meagan McNeely in July, 2018 and since then she has worked to update and centralize Guilford’s resources for LGBTQIA students.

“My sole job is to focus on the LGBTQIA population and its allies,” said McNeely. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve offered liberation space training, also known as Safe Zone training. Safe Zone is an international program that works for the inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQIA folks.

“I also offer Queer in the First Year, which is a first-year support group for LGBTQIA students. The group is for people who are questioning, people who are confident in their sexuality and gender identity, across the whole spectrum.”

In the future, McNeely is aiming to further improve Guilford as a champion of LGBTQIA acceptance and ensure that LGBTQIA students have access to all the resources they need in order to graduate and be successful.

“First and foremost, I really want students to know that this office is a really safe and queer-affirming space. I personally didn’t have that in undergrad and I think it’s really important,” McNeely said. “My hope is to provide support to queer students on campus so that they can graduate and become successful members of society.”

In the future, the DEI Office is aiming to continue its initiative to better the campus and Guilford community atmosphere for marginalized students. Upcoming events include Title IX and Real Talk Thursdays, Ethical Leadership Committee Meetings, IEC Training and presentations by the Wiser Justice Program.