Gatepost Interview: Kimberly Dexter, Director of Equal Opportunity, Title IX, and ADA Compliance

Can you briefly describe your educational and professional background?

I did my undergrad work at the University of Maryland, where I got a bachelor’s of science in finance. After I graduated from Maryland, I took a job as a residence director here at Framingham State. So I came up here in February 2005. While I was an RD, I completed my master’s in nonprofit management at Worcester State. I completed that in 2008. The summer of 2008, I moved into the assistant director role in Residence Life. From there, [I was] later promoted to associate director, and then in December of this past year, moved into this new role.

 

Can you define what your job is and some of your duties?

 

I can certainly try. My full title is director of equal opportunity, Title IX and ADA compliance. So what that means is that I have primary responsibility for basically equal opportunity and affirmative action … Title IX and ADA compliance within all related state and federal laws, executive orders, university policies – basically, anything that’s going to apply to those areas. In actuality, it means I may be developing and implementing, and also evaluating plans and policies around employment. I’ll also be overseeing the investigation and resolution processes for discrimination and harassment complaints. Those include investigations under Title IX, which covers gender-based discrimination in higher ed. I’ll also be working with faculty and staff, applicants for employment, and others who may need to make requests for accommodations under the ADA. And I’ll also be doing outreach and training through the community around all those topics: Title IX, inclusive hiring practices and preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

 

What should students, faculty and staff know about your department, job and what you can offer them?

So I work out of the Human Resources Office, and while I have the overall responsibility for compliance with these areas, students are not necessarily going to need to interact with me very often. … I’m here predominantly in a supporting role. I’ll be meeting with search committees and search committee chairs to assist them when they’re seeking applicants for open positions in their departments. I’m here to support them if they or members of their departments or offices do have concerns around discrimination or harassment that may be occurring in the workplace. And also, anybody who may need a medical accommodation, they should feel welcome to come speak with me, so that we can work out what accommodations may be appropriate.

 

What are some misconceptions people may have about equal opportunity and affirmative action?

I think that there is mostly lack of understanding about what those terms mean. In this context, what I am trying to accomplish is to ensure that we’re offering a discrimination-free workplace and also to support hiring practices that are equitable and that will help promote diversity within our candidate pools that will then reflect in the diversity in our overall faculty and staff.

 

Is this a new position?

This is a new position. I’m basically taking over some of the work of many committed people here at FSU, so some of the work that I’ll be doing has already been under the responsibility of different members of the Human Resources Office. And of course with Dean Stoops being a Title IX coordinator, she’s been taking a lot of those responsibilities over the years as well. However, compliance in all of these areas continues to become more complicated and requires an intense focus, and so this position will allow the university to maintain that focus.

 

What was your best moment in your college career?

That would have been when I was tapped for Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), which is a national leadership fraternity. I remember when I first toured the University of Maryland. In the center of campus, there is … a fountain, and it’s the ODK fountain. And everyone who’s initiated into ODK gets their names permanently engraved on that fountain. And I remember saying, “I want to be a student leader that gets their name on that fountain.” And eventually, I did, and it was in recognition for my leadership in Residence Life and on the rugby team.

 

So you were an RA as a student? Did that influence you to go into Residence Life here?

Absolutely. When I was trying to decide what to do with my life, I for a long time thought the next step would be law school. Instead, I graduated without a job lined up, spent pretty much all of my savings bumming around Europe for a month, came back. I was a mortgage broker for three months, just trying to use my finance degree, because it seemed more fiscally responsible than going into Res Life, even though I knew I had loved it and had kept it in the back of my mind as a potential opportunity. And then I started searching for positions. I probably applied to 30 different schools, and when I came to Framingham State, I just knew, especially after meeting with some of the students at the time, I just knew this was where I wanted to be. And luckily, they wanted me here.

 

What might students be surprised to know about you?

Well, I have tried to live as an open book, and having worked with students for my first almost nine years at Framingham State, there were few questions that I didn’t answer for them. But, fun fact that people outside of the close circle might not know is that I am a wedding officiate in my spare time. I’ve probably performed about 10 weddings or so – for personal friends, but also certain members of both the staff and the student body after they graduated.

 

Do you have any advice for students?

In the general scope of the college experience, I think being involved is one of the keys to really having meaningful outcomes as part of your educational experience. And that can mean a number of things, whether it’s clubs, campus employment, utilizing faculty office hours – these are all things that matter, and I hope students will take advantage of them. And within the context of my current role, I would advise students not to keep concerns to themselves. If something feels off, or if something is making them feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they should address that information with a staff member or a faculty member and that would be assessed to make sure the environment on this campus is safe and comfortable for our students.

 

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