Candidate visits for the position of vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement continue

Robinson tells FSU community members she is a ‘bridge-builder,’ ‘champion’ for students

Regina Robinson, the third candidate for the position of vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, answered questions from the FSU community at two open forums April 29.

Robinson is the dean of student affairs at Cambridge College. She is also in charge of managing the aspects of student engagement, health records, international student affairs, and disability services, according to her biography from FSU’s website.

Robinson received a bachelor’s degree in speech communications and a master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University, according to her CV. Her experience includes work on the board of directors of the Evangelical Free Church of America in Minneapolis and leadership at Boston Public Schools as a policy maker.

She said Framingham State has been very “intentional” in creating a role that is a part of making change happen. 

Robinson said she comes with a “soldier mentality, not a savior mentality.”

She added, “Having a savior mentality is actually harmful because no one person can come in with a magic hammer and fix things.”

Virginia Rutter, sociology professor, asked Robinson if she could provide examples of a time when not everyone was on board to work to promote actions addressing systemic racism and accountability. 

Robinson described her experience working in higher education, as well as her 10 years serving as a school board member for the City of Boston.

She said at her institution, “We have students that are already coming in with situational barriers.”

Robinson added, “I want to engage the leaders who can make change possible and make change happen. … Not everyone is willing to hear what you have to say and jump on board.”

Robinson said there is a collaboration that needs to take place.

Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, sociology professor, asked Robinson if she could provide examples of a time when she advocated for queer and transgender students.

Robinson said it’s helpful to have staff members who represent students. “It’s not just enough to talk about diversity.”

She added, “It was important for me to hire staff and have speakers and opportunities for the students to engage in environments with people who understood their lived experience.”

A student asked Robinson how she plans to reach the students who do not come to “these kinds of events.”

Robinson emphasized how “critical” it is for leaders to host meetings frequently – not just when it’s convenient for them. “That’s not what inclusion means.”

She added, “Inclusion is about involving all, and all means all.”

Robinson said “being a chief advocate for students, being a chief bridge-builder, and being a chief champion for the needs for students” is important to her.

Zeynep Gonen, sociology professor, asked Robinson to discuss the difficulties she has faced at her previous institutions and how she overcame them.

Robinson said, “Some of the difficulties have been around the students’ voices and wanting to see student change happen in a timely way.”

Walker gives solutions for lack of diversity training among university administrators 

Bonnie Walker, the fourth candidate for the position of vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, answered questions from the FSU community at two open forums May 1.

Walker works at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as its executive director of diversity and inclusion strategy. According to her CV, she has been working in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion for nearly 15 years.

Walker said she grew up on a college campus. “It’s sort of in my blood – it’s everything that I care about.”

She graduated from Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a concentration in race and ethnic relations, going on to receive a master’s in professional communication.

Walker said she sought out a small- to medium-sized institution as part of her mission to increase outreach and “provide access” in hopes of having a “broader impact.”

She added, “I feel like that would happen at a place like FSU.”

Walker stressed the importance not only of diversity in the institution, but also the significance of equity in best practices and ongoing efforts of inclusion.

“I think what is really important to me as a fundamental value – what I know is important to me – is education as far as providing equity, overcoming oppression, and building bridges above and beyond a core social justice value,” she said.

Virginia Rutter, sociology professor, asked Walker how, as part of the President’s Cabinet and in a “high-access position,” she would transform executive policies in the face of systemic racism.

“I’m interested in what experiences you have in helping folks at that level understand and transform policies and programs in order to address diverse-access issues that you’re talking about,” Rutter said. “How do you get that across at the highest level?”

Walker said, “I think a challenge with the idea of privilege is that people don’t know that they have it.”

She added in order to address this issue, she would encourage more introspection among those who are taught to view themselves as the default or above the need for “fundamentally important” implicit bias or cultural competency trainings often required of faculty and staff.

“What we don’t often do – which I think is irresponsible – is to ask our administration at the highest level to do all the same things,” Walker said. 

She added, “We need to understand where we are. We need to be, on some level, able to facilitate these conversations, even if we are not the actual facilitators. We can’t ask students to do something or become something that we’re not asking of ourselves.”

Margaret Carroll, dean of STEM, asked Walker how she would address the issue of more “reticent” faculty when it comes to issues of diversity. “Some professors say, ‘That’s not what I’m trained to do – I’m trained to be a biologist or physicist.’”

Walker said on her campus, there is no consistent diversity training for faculty. “It’s been more like, ‘Hey, how do I do this?’ And I’ll go by department and work with faculty chairs.

“I’m doing an index to make sure I’m doing this systematically across the faculty … to make sure everyone’s getting the same foundational training.” She added she makes sure to address department-specific concerns as well.

Walker said she plans to provide ongoing support to faculty in bringing “difficult conversations to the table.”

Walker also addressed issues of hiring more diverse faculty and fostering the relationships between the University and the parents of students – especially those of color and first-generation students.

She said in terms of supporting the development and retention of students, parent outreach and engagement is a “staple.

“Students are not a body by themselves,” she said. 

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