Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Andrew Zhang
Individual diversity can come through thought, skills, experiences and one’s identity. The details of each of our lives hold value when we choose to recognize them and invest our time in each other’s details. Asking why diversity is important can be a personal question for each of us because we each participate in shaping our own niches. Celebrating the diversity of each and every student on a college campus, as well as being inclusive of people no matter their background, is an important and necessary part of campus life.
Here at Adelphi, the leadership of the office of diversity and inclusion has been taken over by two new strong and qualified leaders, Executive Director Chotsani West and Vice President Jacqueline Jones LaMon.
West is the founding director of Adelphi’s mentoring program, which reflects the belief in building upon student-centered education and student potential. West has been a model for other leaders to support the retention rate of a diverse demographic of individuals at Adelphi through the mentoring program.
West said that having overall life and professional experience is instrumental in her understanding for developing a sense of inclusion, which requires each one of us to integrate the various implications of what it entails into our curriculum, daily interactions and continual learning.
“We must all view the work of diversity, equity and inclusion as a collective responsibility. Helping people see the value of that takes time,” West said. “I hope to bring awareness, empowerment and a strong focus on the main priorities of all students—which is their success, health and wellness.
LaMon said she is a child of the 60s and 70s: a world that would be seen as controversial today. Yet diversity, equity and inclusion are still goals that we have yet to reach across every career discipline, she said.
“Diversity is the acknowledgement that all of our voices need to be represented—not just a few select ones, but all voices,” LaMon said. “The only conflict that arises occurs when we impose value of certain voices over others, when we discount the importance of difference and only embrace a single viewpoint as being correct, necessary or respected.
“At Adelphi I hope to build support structures for our entire community to strengthen the positive experiences that they have while here, to make certain that all of our community members have the resources needed to thrive,” she added.
LaMon has been working at Adelphi University since 2006. She was an English professor, a department chair and director of the MFA program in Creative Writing, and an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
She explained what being a poet means to her and why poetry runs parallel to inclusion.
“For me, poetry is not to be regarded as some form of high-brow declarative thinking or making empty statements. I write poetry because doing so helps me figure out the questions that need to be asked. Poetry is all about subtext, the meaning beneath the surface, the motivations for action and inaction.”
She added that creative outlets like poetry allow us to both face our challenges and to discover who we are. “Improvement comes with having the difficult conversations and exploring our differences with respect and civility.”
The perpetual revision process of developing diversity, equity and inclusion is led by leaders like West and LaMon, who stand at the forefront of the effort to make the Adelphi community better. But student participation in building this community is just as important a task for making the university as equitable and inclusive as possible. With West and LaMon’s enthusiasm and energy, and with our involvement, we can each create opportunities that explore our differences and create effective equitable and inclusive improvements to our community.