Four vie for director positions in diversity office

Finalists for the directors position of each office have been on campus sharing their ideas about how to tackle issues facing students.

Thomas L. Alexander III, a diversity department manager at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, speaks on Dec. 2 in Appleby Hall as a finalist for the director position of the University of Minnesotas Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.

Image by Nicola Losik/Moira DuCharme

Thomas L. Alexander III, a diversity department manager at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, speaks on Dec. 2 in Appleby Hall as a finalist for the director position of the University of Minnesota’s Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.

by Jill Jensen

Over the past two weeks, finalists for director positions in the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Programs Office have talked with staff, students and faculty in public forums across campus to emphasize their vision for the two offices.

Director finalistsâÄô ideas varied from addressing GLBT safety issues with the police, to facilitating honest conversation between polar personalities to address diversity issues.

The chosen directors could be appointed as soon as Feb. 1, said Rickey Hall, the assistant vice president in the Office for Equity and Diversity.

A big part of the new directorsâÄô jobs will be identifying priorities and restructuring units to be more effective in the face of budget constraints, Hall said.

He said the office is searching for candidates that are grounded in social justice and have the vision and articulation to move the offices forward.

âÄúIt just canâÄôt be about identifying the issues,âÄù Hall said. âÄúThey must also have ideas for how to address those issues.âÄù

He said public feedback is a âÄúcriticalâÄù part of the search process and encouraged students, staff and faculty to send him emails with their opinion, as well as fill out feedback sheets available at the forums.

Thomas Alexander and Frederic MacDonald-Dennis are both finalists for the director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence. Matthew Antonio Bosch, Owen Marciano and MacDonald-Dennis are finalists for the GLBTA programs office.

Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence

Thomas Alexander

Alexander stressed the importance of facilitating âÄúcross-cultural dialogueâÄù between students with polar ideas so they can learn from each other.

In his âÄúFree Food for ThoughtâÄù program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alexander encouraged students to âÄúbe a little uncomfortable but so they can learn.âÄù

âÄúIf you have an environment where you have some level of civil discourse, those students will be able to hear a different perspective that theyâÄôve never heard before,âÄù he said.

He said students need to get âÄúbeyond the smiles and being niceâÄù so they can leave the University without âÄúbiased thought.âÄù

Alexander said multicultural affairs should be everyoneâÄôs responsibility, and staff at MCAE should collaborate with other departments to be a âÄúone-stop center for informationâÄù for students from recruitment through graduation.

âÄú[Students] will be able to come there and find out anything and everything they need to know,âÄù Alexander said.

In his idea for a premier center at the University, he said MCAE would be able to provide or direct students to resources beyond tutoring and academic counseling, like housing.

Since 2004, Alexander has been the special assistant for diversity to the vice president of student affairs at Alabama and the director of the Office of Student Involvement since 2000.

Alexander is conscious of multicultural issues and expanded the role of multiculturalism in relation to the university, said Migdawlaw Yisrael, who works in the Office of Student Involvement.

She said the black male retention program was AlexanderâÄôs âÄúbrain childâÄù and has grown to mentor more than 100 African American freshmen throughout their time in college.


Frederic MacDonald-Dennis

One of MacDonald-DennisâÄô main visions for both MCAE and the GLBTA office was to provide ready access to resources, like academic and personal support across campus so students donâÄôt âÄúflounder.âÄù

âÄúStudents should not have to expend that amount of energy to really get a full college experience,âÄù MacDonald-Dennis said.

HeâÄôs being considered for either position.

Both offices would engage in collaboration across the system in MacDonald-DennisâÄô ideal center âÄúso that GLBT [and multicultural] issues arenâÄôt just positioned in the GLBTA [or MCAE] office but throughout the system,âÄù MacDonald-Dennis said.

While MacDonald-Dennis was interim director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs from 2009 to 2011 at Haverford College, he brought GLBTA awareness under the office umbrella, Haverford College Dean Martha Denney said via email.

She said MacDonald-Dennis could build relationship bridges because he isnâÄôt afraid to have difficult conversations.

He said heâÄôs a strong supporter of a âÄúpipelineâÄù that encourages students to engage in these issues from a young age and follow them through higher education and as they become alumni.

âÄúIâÄôm a big believer in having a connection with K-12 communities,âÄù he said.

As a self-proclaimed advocate for social justice education, he said the University of Minnesota could create a social justice immersion program with curriculum on sexism, racism, homophobia and other issues before students come to college. He said he coordinated a similar program for 30 students during his time at Haverford College.

GLBTA Center

Matthew Antonio Bosch

Bosch began by requesting that everyone at his public forum share their name and what they want the new director to do.

He then reiterated back the names of more than 25 students, faculty and staff present at the forum, without notes.

âÄúWhere I come from, studentsâÄô names are really important,âÄù Bosch said. âÄúYouâÄôre not just a number.âÄù

ItâÄôs just another example of how Bosch is creative, high energy and charismatic, said Jane Reinke, vice president of academic affairs at North Hennepin Community College.

âÄúHe loves to come to work, and it shows,âÄù Reinke said.

Bosch is the chief diversity officer at NHCC, a position that did not exist before he began in 2006. He has been instrumental in institutionalizing GLBT ally training for faculty and staff, Reinke said.

She said Bosch hosts well-attended workshops for students to raise GLBTA awareness, and organizes guest lectures and panels in different disciplines across campus.

In that capacity, heâÄôs held a GLBT panel for a law enforcement class at NHCC, in what he calls âÄúqueering the popo.âÄù He said as director, he wants to forge increased connections with the University police to address key safety and crime issues like police brutality or what to do when the gender on the license doesnâÄôt match the person.

Bosch said itâÄôs important to hold more events like conferences and vogue balls âÄî dance competitions between African-American gay and transgender men âÄî to be seen as a leader in bringing marginalized groups, like bisexual and transgender communities to the center.

Owen Marciano

Marciano is currently the transfer admissions coordinator at the College of Education and Human Development at the University. He was also previously the assistant director of the GLBTA programs office for four years beginning in 2004.

As director, Marciano wants to create a âÄúculture of alliesâÄù where students, faculty and staff can be their whole selves.

He emphasized a âÄúcommunity-drivenâÄù and âÄústudent-centeredâÄù GLBTA center which improves itself through feedback and evaluation from students and community members.

âÄúI believe listening is just as important as speaking out, and learning is just as important as teaching,âÄù Marciano said.

He said the University needs to implement education on privilege and how we oppress one another by increasing communications through âÄúauthentic relationships.âÄù

âÄúI donâÄôt feel like we can build trust âĦ if weâÄôre not being authentic with each other,âÄù Marciano said.

He comes with a strong community and campus network because of his ability to build relationships, said Arien Telles, who works with him in CEHD student services.

âÄúOwen has an incredible capacity to bring people together, particularly students,âÄù Telles said.

In doing so, he wants to create a committee on racial equity to guide the office âÄî like the Transgender Commission does on initiatives like health insurance policies and bathrooms.

But, Marciano said, policy change is not the only answer âÄî the University must transform its culture to make GLBTA students, faculty and staff comfortable being themselves.

He said he would create opportunities like a tri-fold service learning internship that would benefit the GLBTA office, the University campus and the community.

He said all of these needs have been âÄúbubbling up on this particular campus the entire time that IâÄôve been here.âÄù