Center for Equity and Diversity looks forward to changes

Laura Dickinson

The Campus Center for Equity and Diversity at UW Oshkosh made recent changes in the division directors for the 2017-2018 school year after many faculty members had retired at the end of the previous school year.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Support of Inclusive Excellence Sylvia Carey-Butler said due to the retirement of many directors after last spring, the division hired to fill the positions to help lead the Center for Equity and Diversity.

“All this change really has been hard, and while I am absolutely going to miss everyone who retired, I am excited what we have going on going forward,” Carey-Butler said.

Carey-Butler said changes include promoting Mai Khou Xiong to assistant director of access and retention, hiring Eric Williams as the new PreCollege programs coordinator and promoting UWO alum Byron Adams as director of student achievement services.

“Byron went to undergraduate school here and earned his masters here,” Carey-Butler said. “He is really someone who understands [UWO] from both sides. He understands what students face and all the support systems that are here on campus, so that is exciting.”

Adams said his focus and passion are helping students and by using his experiences from attending UWO, he better understands them.

“This is the community where I came into my own,” Adams said. “I am from Illinois, so I was an out-of-state, first-generation student and, as a student, I used these services. I struggled my first couple years, and these services are what helped me graduate. Without them I would have failed out or wouldn’t have been successful. I enjoy being able to give back because I know the struggles students face.”

Adams said a change he and the department are currently working on is starting a new academic monitoring program.

“We are in the beginning phases of an academic monitoring program that we call Inclusive Excellence Tracker,” Adams said. “It is similar to Early Alerts. We look at students who are on the cusps of having an academic issue. So if they have a 2.3 or lower [GPA], we are sending the academic monitoring alerts to faculty to get feedback on students, and then we do intervention efforts with them.”

Another new hire is UWO alumna Melissa Belmontes as the outreach and retention coordinator. Carey-Butler said Belmontes’ position is new, replacing two previous positions.

“She knows the students,” Carey-Butler said. “We interviewed others for the position, but she just came out on top. I was excited to offer the position.”

Carey-Butler said there will be many new programs and workshops coming with the changes.

“Coming up in October, I will be doing two [workshops] around inclusive excellence, both for students and then a separate one for faculty and staff,” Carey-Butler said. “They are so folks can lean in and begin to understand how inclusive excellence and how unconscious bias can influence a student’s success. This is not just for students of color. I am actually hoping that more students who are not of color will attend this workshop.”

UWO sophomore Haley Faust said she would be interested in attending the workshop put on by Carey-Butler.

“I can’t or don’t want to speak for minorities, but I want to better understand their perspective,” Faust said. “In order to make this environment better, I have to – we have to – learn and understand. I would like to attend [this workshop] to try and understand our biases.”

Carey-Butler said the Campus Center for Equity and Diversity team’s main goal is to ensure the academic success of students of color as well as be part of inclusive excellence on campus to make sure everyone matters.

“In the center you may see a lot of programs come out of all the different offices that are here, but what we are really here for is academic success of students of color, and we have been able to realize some excellent outcomes,” Carey-Butler said.

Carey-Butler said one of the excellent outcomes includes looking at different students’ GPAs.

“I just did a presentation at the new faculty orientation,” Carey-Butler said. “I was able to show, one of the things I am proud of what we have done, is when you segregate the different students-of-color populations, you will see that there is not one group of students of color below a 2.0 [GPA]. Not only was it not below a 2.0, but it wasn’t near a 2.0.”

Among all the changes, Carey-Butler said she is excited to work with her team and to keep providing successful services and advising to students.

“I have a wonderful team,” Carey-Butler said. “They have really worked hard to come together. I really want us to continue to develop as a team, to support each other and to collaborate across programs.”