New name, same game: Introducing the Office of Equity and Inclusion

Leah Boynton

As new and returning Poets enter campus, they will discover many new changes to student life along with some new administrative faces. In a small corner of the Campus Center, students can be found hanging out, eating lunch and chatting on couches in the office formerly known as the Cultural Center. 

While the work that the center does will remain the same, it has been renamed the Office of Equity and Inclusion. The Office also has a new leader, Director Jenny Guerra.

At the end of Spring semester in May 2016, Dean of Students Joel Perez spoke with the center’s former Director, Luz Galbreath, about changing its title. The Cultural Center had become instrumental to students during a year that challenged them to think globally about individuals from diverse backgrounds. 

Dean Perez continued that conversation with current students, directors of other offices on campus, faculty, senior staff and alumni to create the new title: The Office of Equity and Inclusion. The original title of the Cultural Center implied that the office only worked with students from different cultures, so the name was changed to reflect the work it does with students withmultiple identities.  

“I noticed that the Cultural Center had outgrown that title,” said Dean Perez. “The Cultural Center wasn’t just working with cultural groups but also first generation, LGBTQ+ and interfaith groups.” The Office of Equity and Inclusion is following many other college campuses nationally that are also changing the names of their cultural centers. 

Thedepartment will work with students from different backgrounds and strive for equity in higher education with the help of Director Guerra. “The Office will advocate for students with multiple identities and it will have to be an active office, not a passive office,” said Dean Perez. He emphasized that he hopes the office will put on more programs to reach out directly to students.

Dean Perez is also hoping that the Office of Equity and Inclusion will continue to work with different departments on campus such as Residential Life, First-Year Programs, Leadership Experiences and Programing and academic departments. The center will assist in training these departments as well as putting together events for students.

“Students can expect that there will be a lot more structured programs around identity as well as programs to help support students who historically have been underrepresented in higher education,” said Dean Perez. 

There are many ideas of programs being discussed underneath the new title, but Perez wants Guerra to spend this year discovering what the campus needs. “One of the things I’m having [Guerra] do is create a program to help our men of color be successful academically,” said Perez, providing one example of the many plans the Office hopes to complete.  

Director Guerra spent last year as an Assistant Director in the Leadership Experiences and Programing (LEAP) Office, and her new office as Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion is right next door. “Students can expect a director that is really passionate about these issues,” Dean Perez said. “[Guerra] will help those of us in student life and faculty and other departments on campus talk about equity and inclusion.”

As the Office continues to discover new purpose with its new title on campus, Perez wants to encourage the work the department has already been doing. “We don’t have a big budget there. I think it’s going to be much more focused on creating intentional space to focus on dialogue around difference and help facilitate conversations,” Perez said. “I want [Guerra] to identify what the priorities are with that office.”

Dean Perez sees the future of the Office in Guerra and her enthusiasm for her work. “We hired [Guerra] because we believe she can do the job and she has a passion for underrepresented students from multiple identities,” Dean Perez said. “She really is a hard worker and has a clear idea of what this Office can be, we felt she was the strongest candidate.” 

While the LEAP Office is going to miss Guerra and her hard work, Assistant Director Debbie Allison is excited for her and her new opportunity. “I believe her vision and hard work will allowthe Office of Equity and Inclusion help all Whittier students to explore and celebrate their multiple identites,” Allison said. 

Turn to page 11 to read a profile on new Director of Office of Equity and Inclusion Jenny Guerra.