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“We will not wait for others to show us how to be inclusive. We will lead the way,”
said RIC President Frank D. Sánchez to members of the
President’s Inclusive Excellence Commission.

 

RIC President Frank D. Sánchez

On Feb. 15 the President’s Inclusive Excellence Commission (IEC) convened for the first time during Inauguration Week.

In his introductory remarks, RIC President Frank D. Sánchez spoke of a time when diversity and inclusion was not a part of the fabric of America, yet despite the hardships his Mexican American parents faced, both achieved college degrees.

One of the top priorities of his presidency, Sánchez said, will be to ensure that RIC promotes diversity and inclusion regardless of ethnicity, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion, politics or culture.

His efforts to move forward on this issue include the establishment of the IEC, the creation of a new division at the college: the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, led by Associate Vice President Anna Cano Morales, and elevation of the role of Director of Institutional Equity Margaret Lynch-Gadaleta.

“As we embark on this journey to ensure that RIC’s diverse communities are well engaged, understood and empowered, it is a tremendous help to be able to tap into the wisdom that makes up the IEC,” said Cano Morales. “Not only is this standard best practice, the IEC will guide and bear witness as RIC becomes a leader in this work.”

The IEC is comprised of 23 members of the Rhode Island community, all working for greater diversity and inclusion in the state. (See list of members at bottom of page.) Their role is to:

  • Advise the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity on matters of diversity.
  • Identify policies and practices that pose barriers to the engagement and success of underrepresented constituents.
  • Increase awareness of high-impact practices.
  • Guide innovations that advance RIC’s diversity goals as outlined in the Strategic Plan. 
  • Advise and provide input on comprehensive goals and measurable objectives for the campus relating to inclusive excellence.
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress and success of campus efforts to achieve inclusive excellence.
  • Review and recommend revision of freedom of expression, Title IX and diversity policies and practices from the perspective of inclusive excellence.
  • Position Rhode Island College to be a regional leader on issues of diversity and equity for higher education.
R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo

Guest speaker R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo emphasized that equity includes having equal access to higher education, which leads to greater economic opportunity.

She said, “Out of the 11 million jobs created since the Great Recession, only 80,000 [less than one percent] went to those without degrees.”

Access to higher education comes down to affordability, she said, adding that her #1 agenda for 2017 will be to make college more affordable.

If passed by the legislature, the governor’s Free College Proposal, which offers two tuition-free years of college for full-time students enrolled in a public higher education institution, would be available to any Rhode Island resident who graduates from an in-state high school.

Expounding further on inclusion, keynote speaker and IEC member Visael Bobby Rodriguez explained that diversity is all those things that make us different; yet diversity means nothing without inclusion.

Of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, Rodriguez is vice president of human resources and diversity & inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island. He recalled how, upon his hire, he was met with a cold shoulder by fellow coworkers, illustrating that it doesn’t matter if a company hires ethnically diverse employees and those with different sexual orientations. If the employees “are not included in the relationships and culture of the organization,” he said, they are rendered “invisible.”

Visael Bobby Rodriguez

Rodriguez eschewed the old analogy of inclusion as a melting pot, because a melting pot dissolves each ingredient into one homogenous soup. Rather inclusion should be like a salad bowl, he said, that maintains the uniqueness of each ingredient and “the integrity of each flavor.” 

The latter analogy reflects the composition of the IEC as well as the collective voice of RIC’s community. The commission’s directive is to provide a forum where representatives from various segments of the campus community can come together to provide input and feedback and react to staff-led, proactive strategies, methods and approaches to advance diversity and equity at the college.

The IEC will meet four times a year. Members can submit thoughts and suggestions, at any time, to the president and associate vice president. As appropriate, the commission, in collaboration with the Office of the President, will inform the campus community about the progress and success of campus efforts to achieve inclusive excellence.

Sánchez said, “The work ahead of us is a testament to the strong commitment that our college and our state have made to inclusive excellence. We will not wait for others to show us how to be inclusive. We will lead the way. Thank you for being an important part of our journey.”

MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION

  • Rhode Island Department of Health Chief of Minority Health Angie Ankoma
  • United Way of Rhode Island Policy and Research Director Kyle Bennett
  • Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island Executive Director Kathy Cloutier
  • Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence Chief Operating Officer Sophia Grice
  • Foster Forward Executive Director Lisa Guillette
  • Principal of the Islamic School of Rhode Island Abdelnasser Hussein
  • Rhode Island Latino Arts Executive Director Marta Martinez
  • Central Falls School District Family & Student Support Director Patricia Martinez
  • College Visions Founder and Executive Director Simon Moore
  • International Charter School Director Julie Nora
  • Providence Police Department Commanding Officer of Patrol Bureau Operations Major Oscar Perez      
  • President and CEO of YWCA Rhode Island Deborah Perry
  • Bank of America Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor Yahaira Placencia 
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island Vice President of Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion Visael Bobby Rodriguez
  • Rhode Island State Council for the Arts Director Randall Rosenbaum
  • Rhode Island State Council of Churches Governing Board Member Barbara Silvis
  • Tomaquag Indian Museum Director Loren Spears
  • OIC of Rhode Island Founder and CEO Michael Van Leesten
  • Providence Cultural Equity Initiative Founder and CEO Ray Two Hawks Watson       
  • The Kings Cathedral’s Very Right Rev. Dr. Jeffery Williams
  • #300 Women Founder and Vice President Kira Wills
  • Founder and CEO of ARISE and Board President of the Cambodian Society of Rhode Island Chanda Womack
  • Providence Public Schools Chief Transformation Officer Heather Tow-Yick​