With Cindy Carlson, Dean of Students, and Birgitte Ryslinge, President
Each year, Campus Compact of Oregon member institutions get 4 hours of free training and consultation on equity in education. Oregon Coast Community College in Newport, Oregon, has made the most of this resource. A small college with just 13 full time faculty and 40 part time faculty positions, OCCC brings together its entire staff, faculty, and administration twice a year for in-service trainings. For three years in a row, Campus Compact staff facilitated workshops at these trainings, on topics like the history of race in Oregon, or the ways white supremacy culture perpetuates organizational dysfunction.
“The first time that Josh came four years ago we were really young – immature I would say – in our equity and inclusion work,” says Dean of Students Cindy Carlson. “He was really instrumental in opening those doors for us and facilitating conversations that could have been challenging, in such a way that people didn’t get defensive, which is a pretty big deal.”
President Birgitte Ryslinge feels that the Campus Compact all-staff trainings “helped to create an environment where we have more people understanding the barriers facing some students. It was awareness raising for our employees as a whole.”
OCCC has since started its first Equity and Inclusion Committee, and uses some of the equity tools provided by Campus Compact to evaluate the institutional systems they are building as part of the process of becoming an independently accredited college. The long-term impact of this preliminary work is beginning to bear fruit.
“We have made two full time faculty hires of people of color in the last three years,” shares President Ryslinge. “This is impactful with a full-time faculty of just 13. Were it not for all of the foundational work we were doing through Campus Compact, the outcomes of the screening process might have been different. Faculty and staff who were present for the equity trainings were on our screening committees for hiring. Part of the screening committee orientation was, "don’t look for people who are like us, or focus only on the traditional applicant. Look for— who is this person? How do they bring differences to our faculty? How will students relate and be inspired?”
One of those hires is Oscar Juárez, who is heading up OCCC’s new Early Childhood Education program, which will prepare students to work at places like Head Start, become child care teachers, or get them on their way toward a teaching degree. Through this program OCCC hopes to grow more teachers who will stay in the community in Lincoln County. Juárez’s educational background, work experience at Head Start, and his cultural background were large factors contributing to his appointment. Quoted in a press release for the college, Juárez said, “I felt this was a community that needed me…I have a lot of experience working with low-income families, and as a Hispanic person, I’ve heard from people that said they were excited to see someone with their skin color that can speak their language, and others saying that seeing me in this job gives them hope.”
“We have a long way to go, and we are making good progress,” President Ryslinge reflects on OCCC’s equity journey. “We are small and rural – we don’t have dedicated diversity staff or internal experts – so growing through the assistance of a resource like Campus Compact has been so important.”