New Diversity and Inclusion Project Assistant Paula Cooper highlights diversity

photo courtesy Kaylie Stokes
photo courtesy Kaylie Stokes

Since spring semester 2017, when New College hired its first official Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Autumn Harrell, our campus community has made significant progress addressing diversity issues. Another big step towards making New College more inclusive was the hiring of alum Paula Cooper (’13) as Diversity and Inclusion Project Assistant.

“Paula’s specific position is unique in that this is the first time New has ever had a director for diversity and inclusion,” Courtney Hughes, associate director of the Center for Engagement and Opportunity, said. “I think it was imperative that our new director had the opportunity to work with a recent alum – to understand current and past campus culture, and to gain a better understanding of what our campus needs to be the best it can be for all of our students.”

Cooper, who graduated in May 2016 with a concentration in sociology, will serve as a temporary assistant to Harrell from April to June 2017 conceptualizing projects and collaborating with various groups to improve campus culture.

“One of my big interests is community organizing and I feel like this fits in with that interest,” Cooper said. “Community organizing means working with the community to figure out what they need, how to get those needs met for them and how to help them find resources, and that’s what I’m working on here.”

The many important projects Cooper will be working on includes re-vamping the Gender and Diversity Center (GDC), building a website for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and organizing a nature event for students of marginalized identities.

“We’re going to send out a survey soon to gauge how students, faculty and staff feel about how the GDC is being used now and how they’d like to see it be used,” Cooper said. “We’re trying to figure out what resources are in there now and what we can add to that collection. It’s called the Gender and Diversity center so I felt it would be important for people to see themselves represented in the GDC, so I thought we could have an art-making event where students could make self-portraits that we can display.”

The art-making event will be May 10 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the GDC. A follow-up event will take place in Ham during lunch time on May 1 and May 8 making even more art to use as decoration for the GDC.

Another upcoming event will take place on Sunday, April 30 at Caples to engage students of marginalized identities in nature. The purpose of the event will be to bust myths about people of color and students of other marginalized identities engaging with vegetarianism, outdoor activities and similar interests. Students will enjoy the waterfront and garden area while engaging in activities on the intersection of marginalized identities and active, outdoor lifestyles. All are invited to attend.

Students should look forward to upcoming programming in the next few months as the Diversity and Inclusion team work to cultivate an even more safe and welcoming campus community for all.

“The work Paula is doing for Director Harrell is laying the foundation for programming and idea creation for next year,” Hughes said. “A great accomplishment indeed.”

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