Helping Build a Culture of Belonging
Editor’s Note: As a prelude to a March Spirit story on the Office of Inclusive Excellence, its vision, priorities and goals, here is a feature on Chief Diversity Officer Robin Kelley’s two staff members who are largely responsible for outreach to students, faculty and staff across campus.
Associate Chief Diversity Officer Kristin Finch and Assistant CDO Shawn Washington found their way to Gonzaga on different paths.
Washington’s is not a new face. He knew this place from a previous stint working in Student Life, coordinating the Act Six Scholarship Program, serving as a frequent speaker, bringing cultural awareness to campus, mentoring students and staging student workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Finch, with a Ph.D. in chemistry from University of Illinois and post-doctoral work at St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital, branched into DEI work as associate director at the Center for STEM Diversity at Tufts University in Boston, then as associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State University.
She found Spokane and Gonzaga after her partner, Erin Tucker, became Eastern Washington University’s director of track and field and cross-country last spring. She moved to Spokane and took the job at GU to be with him last summer.
Finch works primarily with faculty. She developed a workshop this fall to train them to conduct faculty searches.
“This workshop is for all faculty who take part in faculty searches,” says Finch. “We want them to realize how our own biases can emerge, and to use processes that are fair and equitable. Using the best practices, policies and procedures help us alleviate anxieties that applicants can feel.”
She also partners with Washington, now one year on the job, in bias intervention training. “People will witness some form of bias occurring and not know how best to react,” Finch says.
Washington, who holds a master’s degree from GU and an Ed.D. in higher education from Concordia in Portland, collaborates with students and staff to help build capacity of thought with leadership across campus. He and Finch encourage offices and department heads to reach out to OIE to schedule training in this area.
Washington meets with office groups and departments to educate others on the importance of this campus community fully engaging in DEI work. He is also working with Student Affairs in developing a framework around mentoring students in the new Unity Scholars Program.
Washington chairs the Bias Incident Assessment and Support team. It is comprised of six faculty members and six staff members.
These two have a positive, engaging spirit about them. It’s clear they complement each other. Both are grateful for their work here.
“It is nice to find a lot of people who are passionate about this work and willing to partner with us,” Finch notes. “There is lots of good initiative in the academy, within the Provost’s Office and with different units across campus. One of the biggest needs is having someone who can fully commit to this work. That’s my role.
“And Shawn is an amazing partner to work with,” she adds.
For Washington, Gonzaga is a major part of his own story. “I met my wife Morgan Flowers-Washington here. She is a Gonzaga graduate a couple of times over and previously worked in housing and residence life.”
According to Washington “DEI and social justice are thought partners. If offices, units or divisions need help and training, please contact OIE and we’re here to serve you.”