“Diversity, Equity and Exclusivity” brings SSU up to date

Campus change is important for every university to become better. Because of this, Sonoma State University welcomed back Reverend Dr. Jamie Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 20 to give a talk about what we can do as a campus to be more inclusive. 

Washington has played an active role in higher education for roughly forty years and has been speaking at different universities for twenty years. 

He has previously spoken at Sonoma State University, but this new program, “Navigating Diversity, Equity and Exclusivity at a 21st century Public  University”, focuses on how we can create a better, more diverse learning environment.

One of his main intentions with this program is to deepen the level of authentic conversation and engagement about difference.

Vice president of Student Affairs Dr. Gregory Sawyer is a friend and colleague of Washington and invited him to come speak at Sonoma State. 

They have known each other for years and Sawyer thought there was no one better for the job.

“At Sonoma State University, we really do want to make a difference. President Judy Sakaki also recognizes that there needs to be a change in terms of access, diversity and inclusivity,” said Sawyer. 

Sawyer continued to say “I also think it’s important that we as a community learn how to trust and be authentic and instead of ‘acting’ in our relationships, we learn how to actively engage with one another.”

Washington delivered a very engaging presentation, in which he had the audience of students and faculty get up from their seats and talk to other people in the crowd using a bingo card of conversation starters. 

Washington also requested that they sit next to someone new. This had the audience get out of their comfort zone from the beginning and gave them the chance to meet new people.

Washington stated that this new person you sit next to will be your high-five buddy from now on. He stated that when you see them around campus, you should high-five that person and tell them to work their strengths or the good qualities they have and to take them out into the community. 

Washington went over certain learning community agreements, saying each person should try to work on open and honest communication, the ability to listen respectively, being open to new perspectives and many others.

Not only were many staff and faculty moved by Washington’s speech, but students were as well.

“I really liked Dr. Washington’s speech, it was extremely interesting and he really engaged with the crowd and included us,” said student Alexis Martinez. “It was cool how he was able to get staff, faculty and students interested in the same concept and everyone was able to come together in that way. The most important message I took away from his presentation would probably be to become more aware of what’s going on around us.”

Washington really enjoyed speaking at our school and hopes our campus can work to become even better.

“I think the most important message for people to take away from my speech today is that we all matter. I believe the role of higher education is to prepare the next generation of leaders to lead effectively within and across difference to help us be better.” Washington said. “It’s important to understand that if we aren’t teaching them to do that, they can’t. So that’s why faculty and staff must equip themselves to prepare their students.”