we are evolving

Promises of expansive and enriching diversity, equity and inclusion, like most institutional efforts, take years to fully materialize. With the intention to diversify, the Collegeā€™s first initiative in 1968, the Equal Opportunity Pilot program, was characterized as anĀ innovative opportunity37 for admitting students of color through scholarships. That was over 50 years ago.

During the first two decades of the 21st century, there is evidence of intentions to document the Collegeā€™s shared values in the 2006 statement38 about the importance of diversity. To put words into action, President Randy Helm approved plans to establish the Multicultural Center.39 In 2006, he also appointed Karen Greene to be the Collegeā€™s vice president for student affairs and dean of students. In February 2007, as part of Black History Month, Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig opened the doors to the Multicultural Center featuring programming40 on the Harlem Renaissance.  In 2009, Robin Riley-Casey was named the director of the Multicultural Center and Multicultural Life, to oversee all the office programmatic efforts such as advocacy for the concerns of historically underrepresented students at a predominantly white institution.

In 2007, the African American Studies concentration became a minor, first directed by Charles Anderson (Theatre and Dance). In 2012, the minor was renamed ā€œAfricana Studiesā€ and was directed by Dr. Kim Gallon (History). In 2011, the Emerging Leaders41 program evolved from its origins as the Jump Start Program (2009) to support and retain students from historically underrepresented and marginalized racial and ethnic groups. The program is centered on creating a sense of belonging to ensure success.42  

In 2013, the student-driven Diversity Vanguard challenged then-President Helm to formalize an institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion. The inciting event for this challenge came on the heels of the Martin Luther King Day address given by Professor Justin Rose in January 2013. Rose spoke candidly about shortcomings of the collegeā€™s legacy on diversity.43Ā His words tapped a nerve with the administration and set afire many of the students of color who, in response, formed the Diversity Vanguard.

Helmā€™s response to the Diversity Vanguard was swift. In part, he wrote, ā€œdespite generations of effort and considerable progress over many years, we still have much to accomplish before we can claim that we live up to our ideal of a diverse, inclusive, and just community.ā€44 After many meetings, deliberations and drafts with a collective of students and faculty, theĀ Five-Year Diversity Strategic PlanĀ was approved by the Board of Trustees on October 24, 2014.45 By 2018, then-president John I. Williams shared with the community Credo Consultingā€™s assessments of the institutionalization of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Muhlenberg. In the most elementary sense, the Collegeā€™s efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion were considered a work in progress.46


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