Cultural competence, equity practices Key themes of the Campus Prevention Network Summit


Upon entering the Paul Quinn College campus for the first time as president in 2007, Dr. Michael J. Sorrell was confronted with a school on the verge of closure.

The historically black University of Dallas only had a 1% graduation rate and hovered around a retention rate of around 30%. This made it difficult to recruit high quality teachers.

Dr Michael J. Sorrell

But dealing with a crisis early in his presidency prepared Sorrell for a national crisis years later: the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have to find a way to stand up for yourself, so when you come out of that time people look at you and say, ‘I want to be part of this community,’” he said. “You have to communicate to people that you will be good stewards of their families, their dreams, their aspirations. It was all something we had learned.

After closing the campus for 15 months, Paul Quinn, like other institutions, plans to welcome students in person again for the fall semester.

In light of the fact that many students are returning to campus with trauma generated by COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustice cases, Paul Quinn will offer more mental health support options and provide trauma resources to teachers and staff. Sorrell also encouraged self-care, especially among those caring for traumatized students.

“We’re going to have to be more compassionate,” he said during his opening speech at the 2021 EVERFI Campus Prevention Network (CPN) Summit: Reimagining a Prosperous Future for Higher Education, which was held on Thursday. “We’re going to have to be more honest. We’re going to have to lead with love. We will have to be prepared to step outside of our comfort zones to provide the nourishing care people really want. “

Continuing on the topic of trauma, Sorrell also discussed cultural competence and growing incidents of prejudice and racism occur frequently in colleges and universities across the country. At Paul Quinn, for example, some black students got angry at the growing number of Latino students on campus.

In response, Sorrell asked a probing question of his students: “What makes you different from those fellowship boys chanting those chants on the University of Oklahoma buses or people who practice? racist incidents in Missouri? It is you who behave badly because you are the majority.

He stressed the need to have cultural skills for everyone. This requires developing a curriculum that “establishes the common good”.

“We are not going to put people down because of their differences,” he said. “We are not going to ravage them because of their race. But if we want to do that, then we have to push back the people who want to codify these bad practices. “

Ha Nguyen

Other sessions during the summit offered suggestions on implementing fair and anti-racist practices in higher education, at a time when racial, social and economic disparities have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ha Nguyen, director of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Washington State Council for Community and Technical Colleges, said a critical part of anti-racism work is building relationships.

For example, the Commission for Diversity and Equity Officers was launched by the State Council to create opportunities for dialogue.

“It creates a space to engage in professional development and have courageous conversations on the topics of white supremacy, white dominant culture, micro-aggression, racial fatigue and exhaustion, and racial injustice. , social and economic, ”said Nguyen.

For years, the State Board has strived to provide equity-focused leadership training and create sacred spaces for students and faculty of color. He has also implemented ongoing mentoring programs to address the lack of diversity in the college pipeline.

“They can just walk into a room and feel an overwhelming sense of belonging and take that much needed breath,” Nguyen said. “A lot of times we walk into white-dominated workplaces. I compare it to putting on our hazmat suits at the start of the day and taking them off at the end of the day. Having these sacred spaces is really essential.

Creating equitable outcomes also requires eliminating destructive narratives, which Nguyen had convicted of using on his family.

When her brother was pressured to finish school, she recalled saying that college “is not for everyone”.

“I am thinking of the words of former Washington State Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, who said,” When we tell our students that college is not for everyone, we might as well could say that the middle class is not for everyone, ‘”Nguyen added.” I always think back to those words and reflect on how I too played a role in ensuring these disparate outcomes for students of color and how the collective system can do better. “

Sarah Wood can be contacted at [email protected]

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