ISSUED: 24 September 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University opened a new Office for Diversity and Equity at the beginning of the school year that will advance support for diversity, equity, and inclusion projects at Shepherd. The office will utilize a $5,000 West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Diversity for Equity grant to help improve student retention and access to textbooks while enhancing social and cultural capital and boosting the academic achievement of students from underrepresented groups. Dr. Chiquita Howard-Bostic, in her new position of associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusivity, oversees the office, which is in Gardiner Hall.
“I’ve found this new position to be an amazing experience because I am able to work with every office on campus to discuss and enhance inclusive projects for the university’s strategic plan, academic programs, and services,” Howard-Bostic said. “Inclusivity covers many areas, such as diversity initiatives, equitable access to learning experiences and a variety of pedagogies, accessibility options, and services. This new office will support all students, staff, and faculty in some way.”
The diversity office suite includes a lounge area where students can engage in activities and have meetings and a television for students to watch documentaries and talk about critical issues.
“Students can come together, communicate, and create new initiatives,” Howard-Bostic said of her office.
A key component of the new Office of Diversity and Equity is a pilot program, Wisdom Inspires Student Excellence (WISE), that pairs first-year students from populations that are generally underserved with mentors who are juniors and seniors for participation in a variety of enriching events on campus. The mentors will help students with networking, enhanced study plans, increased participation in diversity and inclusion activities, and will boost knowledge building and leadership skill development.
Participants who complete activities will receive $50 to use toward a textbook and will work to complete the Leadership for a Better World certificate. The Office of Diversity and Equity will also host WISE TALK, a monthly afternoon topic-focused discussion where mentors and mentees share their unique experiences on campus.
“There’s a combination of teamwork, mentorship, networking, an opportunity to earn a leadership certificate, and an award toward a textbook,” Howard-Bostic said.
Howard-Bostic hopes WISE will be a great addition to current inclusivity programs on campus, such as TRIO Student Support Services, the Multicultural Leadership Team, Shepherd Success Academy, and international programs.
“We can promote creative academic learning experiences around inclusivity in this special space,” Howard-Bostic said.
Howard-Bostic said she will also utilize her background in sociology, criminology, and leadership to help address issues of incivility on campus.
“This office will serve as a sounding board from a diverse and equitable perspective to provide additional support to our administrators who have to make very difficult decisions,” she said.
There are new student spaces for Shepherd’s affinity groups and there are inclusivity offices in Gardiner Hall that Howard-Bostic will collaborate with, including Title IX, Accessibility Services, Multicultural Student Affairs, International Shepherd, and Cooperative Education and Service Learning.
There are ongoing needs for the space, which are not addressed by the HEPC grant. If you are interested in supporting the Office of Diversity and Equity and its unique space for students, contact Sherri Janelle, executive director of development, Shepherd University Foundation, at 304-876-5043.
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