Candidates for Director of Inclusive Excellence Initiatives visit campus

Kamaro Abubakar

By Nadira Wicaksana

Kamaro Abubakar, candidate for the position of director of inclusive excellence initiatives, presented at a student-centered open forum on Feb. 6. The forum was held in the Center for Inclusive Excellence.

According to a flyer sent in an email from Millie González, interim chief officer for diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, the position entails management of “the staff, budget, and programs of the Center for Inclusive Excellence.

“The director collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders in order to promote academic and co-curricular engagement with diversity and inclusion, provide student leadership development, and support equitable educational outcomes and a positive campus climate,” the flyer states.

There were approximately four students and 15 faculty and staff members in attendance at the forum. They asked Abubakar questions about what experiences he would bring to the FSU campus and the initiatives he intended to implement if he were hired.

Abubakar is originally from Ghana and came to the United States as an international undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. He is currently the assistant director of campus life at Clark University in Worcester, and has been working in residence life in higher education at various universities for more than eight years.

At the State University of New York at Purchase, Abubakar said his work as the chair of its Student Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Committee led him to study “identity development and trainings and incorporate them into everything that I do.

“So, I decided to get my certificate in social justice training by going to the Social Justice Training Institute,” he said. 

At Clark, Abubakar founded the Emerging Leaders Institute, which, according to the university’s website, is a six-week program “designed to teach students how to become collaborative, socially responsible leaders who effectively address complex social issues.”

He also spoke not only of the cultural shock he experienced upon coming to the United States as an international student, but also of the value they bring to a campus community.

“We always forget to understand that international students bring a lot of experiences that are going to help us,” Abubakar said. “When I came to the University of Vermont and studied their policies on integration, social justice, diversity – they meant nothing to me when I came from a place where everybody looked like me and talked like me.”

But when Abubakar came to the United States, he said his newfound identity as a black man – albeit different from a black American’s – shaped his understanding of racial and social justice issues.

When junior Hannah Jones spoke of the recent hate crime on FSU’s campus, Abubakar said he, as a staff member of color, noticed similar bias issues at his own university.

“Our athletics department, for example, had a lot of issues with microaggressions and disparities in economic privileges, which can be attributed to the fact most of the staff in that department are white, and our athletes are mostly students of color,” he said. 

Abubakar added that from his experience in residence life, he believes more involvement from universities’ corresponding departments – as well as the integration of diversity topics into academic curricula – would be “beneficial.”

Krysten Lobisch

By Jillian Poland

A candidate for the position of director of inclusive excellence initiatives, Krysten Lobisch, answered questions from the FSU community during an open forum in the CIE on Feb. 6. 

Approximately 25 people attended the forum – about eight students and 17 faculty and staff. 

Lobisch began by introducing herself and explaining her background. She told the group about her experience growing up in “a tiny little town” in New Jersey. 

“It was very limited in terms of diversity and difference. The climate was pretty intolerant. It was very small. The school was almost all white kids. There were no kids who were out – except me,” she said.

She described how, as “a budding feminist baby at 14,” she was looking for a way to get out of that environment and enact social change. She went to college at Montclair State University in New Jersey and majored in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies, then went on to get her master’s in social justice education at UMass Amherst. 

In between getting her bachelor’s and master’s, Lobisch worked with AmeriCorps for two years at a middle school in Springfield connected with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. According to Lobisch’s CV, she worked closely with primarily low-income African American and Latino students to provide academic support and get students “engaged, involved, and graduating.” 

She also worked with UMass Amherst’s Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS) for five years, where she said she “fell absolutely in love with working with students.”

Following Lobisch’s personal introduction, the meeting was opened up to allow FSU community members to ask questions.

Alexandra Valdez, CIE program coordinator, said if Lobisch were director of the CIE, she would be working closely with students of color and affinity groups on a campus where there have been racial bias incidents and hate crimes. 

“As a white woman, you could potentially be a trigger for a lot of these students. How will you handle, from the jump, not having the support of the students, while being able to still do your work in supporting them?” Valdez asked. 

Lobisch replied, “Humility. A lot of it.”

She recalled a situation from when she’d worked at CMASS where a student came to her hoping to start a support group for women students of color. 

Lobisch said she recognized that there were things she was able to help the student with – getting a meeting space, writing a charter, setting goals for the organization – and certain things she could not. 

She said she told the student, “I can be an advisor for you in a limited capacity. If you want a space where you can discuss issues that are impacting you with someone who looks like you, then what I will do is collaborate with the people that I know and see if somebody wants to come in and help you do that piece of it.”

Lobisch said she brought in a friend who was a graduate student in sociology, a “young black woman role model,” who was able to facilitate discussions with the group. 

She added, “I think humility and being honest about where you’re at, go a long way with people coming in.”