New Director Aims to “Broaden the Scope” of the Center for Inclusive Excellence

(Chon’tel Washington, the new director for the Center for Inclusive Excellence, transferred from the Admissions Office at FSU to work more closely with students. Photo by Erin Fitzmaurice)

Chon’tel Washington accepted the position as director for the Center for Inclusive Excellence in February 2016.

According to Washington, she accepted the position because it involved her interests in education, diversity and inclusion.

“It was a perfect mix of working with students directly and helping them be successful,” she added.

Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said, “The Director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, and works in collaboration with students, faculty and staff to help create and maintain a campus community that embraces and values diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice.”

Washington plans to bring awareness to events being held on campus through collaboration with other departments, she said.

“We have an event coming up with the career services office, and I’m collaborating with them to bring a group called Grad Catalyst to campus. It’s a group of MIT students who created a program to work with students of underrepresented groups to [help them] realize grad school can be for them.” Washington said.

The event will be held on April 20.

A large component of Washington’s plans for the center involve engaging the faculty and staff in events happening at the center. “I had an idea for faculty Fridays every first Friday of the month.”

Washington hopes to reach out to more students and make the center “reach a broader group.”

She added, “I want to engage the incoming class a lot more. I want to be a part of Foundations, I want to be a part of Orientation and Black and Bold Beginnings. I’ll hold a reception here and let students know there are services here that are available for them next year.”

After the Black Lives Matter teach in which was held in February, Washington was motivated to create a program based on that. She plans on implementing a speaker’s bureau where “students will be trained to talk about these topics.”

Washington believes the success of the teach in and the interest students showed during the town hall forum will help this program be a success.

The new director was selected by members of a search committee including students, staff and members of the Division of Inclusive Excellence, according to Huddleston.

The committee included Fernando Rodriguez, student trustee, student Cassandra Teneus, Kim Dexter director of equal opportunity, title IX and ADA compliance, Millie Gonzales faculty representative, Colleen Coffey director for MetroWest CPC and Roxana Marrero executive administrative assistant.

According to Dexter, the search committee “conducted a national search for this position and received applications from many well-qualified candidates.  The search committee members thoroughly reviewed all materials that were received, applied established selection criteria and engaged in thoughtful discussion regarding the potential contributions and limitations of individual candidates.”

Huddleston said, Washington was “the most experienced and qualified candidate for the position.”

In an email Rodriguez said, “Input was given to Sean and he made the decision based on all of the feedback.”

A forum was held during which the two “leading candidates” spoke with the FSU community. The other candidate was Amarildo Barbosa who is currently a learning manager at Quinsigamond Community College, said Huddleston in an email.

“Chon’tel seemed to be the candidate who best connected with students,” Huddleston added, citing her experience in the Admissions Office.

Washington began working in the Center for Inclusive Excellence on Feb. 29, according to Huddleston.

Huddleston is looking forward to the energy Washington will bring to the center. “We want students to be able to feel welcome and encouraged to come in and experience the center.

“We want it to be a place where everyone can come together and build cultural confidence – learn about themselves and others,” he said.

In an email he said, “The Center for Inclusive Excellence was originally founded as the Multicultural Center in 2013. In 2015, the name was changed to the Center for Inclusive Excellence to better align with the University’s mission, model and approach for embedding diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice into its foundation.”

He added the center is there to “serve as a collaborative space where students, faculty and staff gather to learn about other cultures, as well as their own, through targeted programming provided by internal and external individuals and groups.”

The center serves as a “brave space” and a “safe space” for underrepresented students to build community and “be supported in their academic, social and personal development,” he said.

Events such as Diversity Dialogues will continue to be implemented in the center. Huddleston hopes to continue the work with students but also wants the center to be a place where “faculty and staff can come and learn and interact as well.”

Washington will be working in partnership with faculty and staff to deliver programming to support ways to learn more about students, Huddleston added.

“The vast majority of [Chon’tel’s] work will be focused on students and student success with a particular focus on students from underrepresented or underserved backgrounds,” he said.

Student Trustee Fernando Rodriguez considers Washington an ideal candidate, in part, because of her passion.

Dexter said in an email, “Chon’tel has demonstrated the capacity to build collaborative relationships with all members of the campus community and to use evidence-based research to develop and support initiatives, as well as a dedication to the ideals of Inclusive Excellence at FSU.”

In an email Rodriguez said, “Chon’tel has a passion that one does not learn as you go it is simply a part of you. Knowing Chon’tel’s story in terms of where she grew up, the program’s she has been a part of, it is very clear that working with young people is her passion.”

Rodriguez said he hopes Washington will bring more student collaborations to the center and is “excited to hear those ideas.”

He added, “Chon’tel has demonstrated the capacity to build collaborative relationships with all members of the campus community and to use evidence-based research to develop and support initiatives, as well as a dedication to the ideals of inclusive excellence at FSU.”

Washington replaced former CIE director, Kathy Martinez, who recently accepted a job as associate director of the Diversity and First Generation Office at Stanford University.

Martinez said in an email the center “is best as an organic space that adapts to the needs of the community and the world, so I hope it remains flexible, avant-garde and intersectional. I don’t believe the CIE, or other centers in higher education for that matter, should ‘give students a voice,’ rather, I believe the role of these centers is to amplify the voices of students, particularly multiply marginalized students, and to be an advocate for students.”

Martinez praised Washington’s work with students and is pleased with her appointment. She emphasized the importance of Washington’s “impressive academic background” and believes she “can be a role model for students who want to do that, too.”

She added, “I’ll always look fondly on the activism that occurred while I was on campus as students stepped up to challenge the status quo. As we have the luxury of hindsight now, we can see how students across the country also stepped up to follow suit and challenge incidents of racism on their campuses, too. I like to think FSU student activists were ahead of their time and they have done so much to educate me and make me who I am today.”

In an email, University President F. Javier Cevallos said, “We are delighted that Chon’tel has agreed to be the new Director for the Center for Inclusive Excellence.  Her experience in admissions makes her an ideal candidate, as she understands the needs of our students.  I am sure she will bring many new and exciting ideas to the center, and I look forward to working with her as she moves the center in a new direction.”

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