Aswad Allen, currently the assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Colorado Denver, spoke and took questions from Emporia State students, faculty and staff last Monday as he is one of two candidates being considered for the senior diversity officer position.
“Because of my background and my experiences, no matter what is going on in my world or the world of those I’m with, I’m always searching to try and find solutions,” said Allen. “I try to not say ‘We can’t.’ I try to say ‘How can we?’”
The person selected will have to collaborate with people across campus to develop strategies to recruit and retain a diverse campus and implement diversity training initiatives, according to emporia.edu.
The Senior Diversity Officer Search Committee has narrowed their search down to two candidates: Allen and TaJuan Wilson, from Medical University of South Carolina.
Allen said he could understand where underprivileged students come from because of his own experiences growing up.
“I grew up in a house of serious dysfunction. Along with my father being a Vietnam veteran, he had post traumatic stress that played itself out often in the home,” Allen said. “There was a lot of violence and abuse. There were a lot of mental health issues...I left home when I was 16 because of the dysfunction, and I was homeless for a time.”
Allen uses this experience to bridge gaps between underprivileged students and administration before, specifically with student veterans, athletes and students of color, and hopes to be able to bring this skill to Emporia State.
Allen also emphasized the importance of structural and institutional changes when it comes to diversity.
“There is a difference between activities and impact. What I am realizing is that there are a lot of activities happening on Emporia State’s campus but the impact may not be quite understood or realized,” Allen said. “(We need to be) talking about sustainable efforts that go beyond...It requires institutionalized initiatives that will measured so that we can get the outcomes.”
Change for diversity on ESU’s campus is a trajectory that is going to involve leadership, changes, support from the community, innovative thinking, time and structural changes, according to Allen.
The committee will announce their candidate selection in the next couple of weeks, according to Jim Williams, chair of the Senior Diversity Officer Search Committee and vice president of student affairs.
Read about Wilson here.