The Division of Campus Life has expanded and reorganized a number of offices under the newly created Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement.
The changes are a result of the reorganization of these offices in order to meet the needs of the communities they serve, according to the Interim Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Michael Shutt, who until this year was the Director of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Life.
The Office of LGBT Life, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS), the Office of International Student Life and the Center for Women (CWE) now form the Diversity and Identity department, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair wrote in an email to the Wheel.
Previously, the CWE operated independently and was not included under the Division of Campus Life. The other three offices in the Center for Diversity & Inclusion were all under Campus Life.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of increasing the Center for Women’s collaborations with Campus Life and especially the offices under the Center for Diversity and Inclusion,” wrote Dona Yarbrough, Director of the CWE, in an email to the Wheel.
The Office of Community Partnerships, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life and the Office of Student Leadership and Services now form the newly created Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement.
These changes will not affect the portion of the University’s endowment that is allotted to Campus Life.
“After a comprehensive review of our community building efforts, Campus Life realigned several offices to better leverage resources to support students and build community,” Nair said.
Before these changes, these offices operated independently under the Division of Campus Life. According to Shutt, the purpose of grouping them is to streamline the chain of command to facilitate collaborations among these organizations.
The new centers unite previously independent organizations.
Shutt said the Center for Diversity and Inclusion aims to pull together areas of campus that deal with identity-based work.
He also noted that although these groups do similar work, they come from a variety of backgrounds.
“We all have different histories and purposes and different experiences and skill sets and relationships,” he said.
Shutt added that the Center’s ongoing goals are to ensure that the needs of those groups who have been historically marginalized are met to the best of its ability.
Both Nair and Shutt referred to Campus Life’s “strategic planning process,” which refers to teams of people within Campus Life assessing what areas of the University need improvement.
According to Shutt, much of his work with the new initiative will be spent evaluating the best practices of each organization in Campus Life and ensuring these practices remain in the new vision. One of the ways in which Campus Life will employ the best practices is through listening sessions, during which students and faculty can voice concerns to Campus Life representatives.
Listening sessions have previously been employed by the University in other areas, such as the renovations for the Dobbs University Center (DUC), but not thus far in Campus Life.
“One thing you won’t see us doing is branding the Center for Diversity and Inclusion,” Shutt said, adding that this is because the Campus Life expansion is a constantly evolving process.
Shutt and Yarbrough both mentioned the necessity and simultaneous difficulty of change.
“Change makes everyone nervous because you don’t know what the outcome will be, but I’m excited to have the chance to dream new possibilities and develop better ways to meet the needs of women at Emory,” Yarbrough wrote.
Shutt also added that part of this change is in fostering more collaboration among the different areas of Campus Life that focuses on affirming identities. He noted that challenges Campus Life faces are in insuring that the needs of marginalized communities are met in a way that affirms their identities.
“It’s hard to learn about other people when we can’t be our authentic selves,” he said.
Nair also noted that the center seeks to advance polycultural and socially conscious communities by “honor[ing] the intersectionality of identities.”
“I’m really excited at this point in time,” Shutt said.
–By Rupsha Basu