EWU builds on national diversity success

Efforts continue in pursuit of diversity excellence.

Dr.+Deirdre+Almeida%2C+American+Indian+Studies+professor%2C+and+Dr.+Shari+Clarke%2C+VP+of+Diversity+and+Inclusion%2C+talk+at+Diversity+Award+Reception+in+2018.

Mckenzie Ford

Dr. Deirdre Almeida, American Indian Studies professor, and Dr. Shari Clarke, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, talk at Diversity Award Reception in 2018.

By Kaitlyn Engen, News Editor

The pursuit for diversity does not end here

EWU has recently been recognized as the top college for diversity in the nation after receiving the Higher Education Excellence and Diversity award, distributed by “INSIGHT Into Diversity” magazine.

EWU’s vice president of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Shari Clarke  expressed sincere gratitude and praise to her department.

“I am really pleased to see that Eastern is recognized for laying a really strong foundation, and putting their resources, time and effort into growing this area of diversity and inclusion,” Clarke said.

But for Clarke, efforts to grow diversity and inclusion at EWU do not stop at an award.

Higher education is in a national crisis right now, according to Clarke, where there is a shrinkage in numbers of college-bound students aged 18 to 22.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as the university as a whole, are working to target this particular problem and more.

The new Strategic Plan finalized last June outlined the university’s goals in continuing efforts to create a diversified, welcoming campus environment, including increased enrollment and graduation rates of underrepresented individuals; fostering relationships with neighboring Native American tribes; and becoming a federally recognized Hispanic Serving Institution.

Chris Robbins, director of strategic university planning, said to The Easterner at the time, “[Diversity] brings a richness to Eastern that represents who we are […] really, it’s the university in its mission is to reach out and to serve all types of students. It’s part of the core of who we are at Eastern.”

Courtesy of EWU website

Clarke said that the goals of the university’s Strategic Plan regarding diversity align well with her department’s goals. But Clarke still has her mind on more.

Last year, one of the department’s biggest achievements was the establishment of its multicultural center.

This year, the department and the university hope to bring a number of additions: a Center for Social Innovation that will engage students in conversations of social justice; a 30-hour curriculum in summer 2019 aiming at intercultural learning techniques; and a leadership academy for 50 selected high school girls in March 2019, to name a few.

The pursuits of the department and the university will be to the benefit of all students, not just underrepresented individuals, according to Clarke.

“We want students to know different perspectives, and to develop a comfort level with diversity, and have an appreciation for everybody that comes regardless of their identity, their sexuality, their geographical location, their age,” Clarke said. 

Society has changed, and you have to be prepared to live and work in a global ever-changing environment, so diversity really impacts all of us.”

— Dr. Shari Clarke, VP of Diversity and Inclusion

The recognition, therefore, is by no means an end, but rather reassurance to a university pushing toward a better future for all of its students.  

“I don’t divorce myself ever from my passion for equity for every individual,” said Clarke.

And neither does EWU. •