Mount St. Mary's University & Montgomery College
Mount St. Mary's University DEI newsletter from the Office of Equity and Success

Welcome to the spring newsletter from the Office of Equity and Success!

The newsletter serves as an educational resource for the Mount community regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics and informs you of DEI activities on campus. If there’s a subject you would like to see addressed in a future newsletter, please email us at dei@msmary.edu.



In This Issue:



Spring Break Masthead
Spring Break Group Photo

Spanish language, art, music, dance, cuisine, and architecture!

A group of 24 Mount students, faculty, family, and friends spent their Spring Break traipsing through southern Spain to learn about the culture and history of this region (see photo). Led by faculty members Dr. Diana Rodriguez-Lozano (World Languages and Cultures) and Dr. Mike Miller (Philosophy), they began their trip in Madrid and over 10 days visited cities in clockwise fashion: Toledo, Granada, Malaga, Seville, Ronda, and Córdoba, enjoying an immersion experience in Spanish language, art, music, dance, cuisine, and architecture.

Students on the trip earned one course credit applied either to Foreign Languages or Philosophy. Nine of the students on the trip were also enrolled in Miller’s Islamic Philosophy class. While Catholicism is the predominant religion in Spain today, the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by Muslims starting in the early 8th century with the invasion of Berbers and Arabs from North Africa overthrowing the Christian Visigoths. Over the next seven centuries, Muslim territory shrank in the Christian Reconquest, and Muslim rule ended with the fall of Granada in 1492. Miller and Rodriguez-Lozano chose the itinerary of the trip to highlight the intermixing of cultures that occurred during this time and its lasting effects today.

During the trip, participants learned about how Christian, Jewish, and Islamic cultures coexisted somewhat peacefully during this time. When Muslims took over in 711, Christians and Jews were not forced to convert to Islam. They couldn't evangelize, but they could pay a tax and still practice their faith. During the Reconquest, when Christians from outside lands ruled by Muslims entered the cities, they were surprised to discover populations of practicing Christians and Jews already living with Muslims. After Christian rule was established, in some cities like Granada and Seville, Jews and Muslims were expelled or forced to convert. But in other cities, like Toledo, Jews and Muslims were tolerated, resulting in blending of cultures.

inside of the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanc

↑   Image from the inside of the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca in Toledo, Spain. The horseshoe shaped arches and ornate geometrical patterns are characteristic of the Mudéjar architectural style.

The Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca (see photo above) in Toledo represents this blending of cultures. It was designed and built by Muslims in the late 12th century for Jewish use as a synagogue when the city was ruled by Christians. It was converted to a church in the early 15th century and is currently owned and preserved by the Catholic Church as a museum (see photo). Its Mudéjar style architecture, which spread from Toledo throughout the Iberian Peninsula, involved reinterpreting Western styles through Muslim influences, incorporating Islamic decorative and ornamental motifs such as geometric and floral forms.

Another structure representing the blending of cultures is the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was originally built as a Roman temple, converted to Visigoth church, a mosque, and then finally a cathedral after Córdoba was reconquered in 1236. The alterations, however, left the Islamic architectural features and design motifs intact, resulting in a hybrid structure where eastern Islamic and western Christian architecture coexist. Student Natalie Guerrero researched this site in her Islamic Philosophy class prior to the trip and remarked that “It was so beautiful to see the Muslims’ influence on the patterns and arches of the architecture still alive.”

In addition to their impact on architecture and design, Arab Muslims have influenced Spanish food, science, philosophy, and language. According to philologist Rafael Lapesa, about 4,000 words of modern Spanish come from Arabic.

Dishes from Spain

↑   Dishes from Spain: paella and migas manchegas (photo by Carly Beres)

Participants on the trip appreciated their immersion in diverse Spanish culture. In addition to touring mosques, cathedrals, palaces, and museums, they took a Spanish cooking class and sampled new dishes, including migas manchegas and paella (see photo above). They also enjoyed the music and dance of a flamenco show (see photo below). Student Carly Beres was grateful that the multilingual Spanish people were considerate of those struggling with Spanish.  Both Beres and Guerrero commented on a slower pace of life in Spain. Guerrero observed that “Time felt slow, and life was enjoyable. You would speak to the locals, and they would explain how they work to live and not live to work.”

flamenco show

↑   A flamenco show in Granada, Spain.

The students interviewed for this article took away valuable lessons from the trip. Guerrero explained that “The history of Spain during that time can inform our society today that, although there are individuals who believe in different religions, have different cultures, and disagree on many things, they can still coexist and respect one another. There will always be…individuals disagreeing on topics concerning political, cultural, or ethical matters. However, we can learn from history and [follow the] example of a society coexisting with differences.” Beres noted that Spain during that time serves as a great example of the salad bowl model of multiculturalism that we can strive for today: each group maintains its identity and the blend of cultures together creates a vibrant and enriching environment in which to live. This is in contrast with the common view of America as a melting pot, in which the different ingredients melt together, assimilating to form one uniform culture.

Both Guerrero and Beres highly recommend the Spain trip (and taking Miller’s Islamic Philosophy class). The next trip will be in January 2024. If you are interested in participating, please contact Miller or Rodriguez-Lozano.

View Photo Album

Except where noted, all photos are by Mike Miller, Ph.D.

BACK TO TOP

DEI Initiatives Highlight

Professor Dudley

By Jack Dudley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

This spring semester, the Mount St. Mary’s University Office of Equity and Success has worked to bring the African American writer James Baldwin into campus conversations about race and the contemporary United States.

Baldwin lived from 1924 to 1987 and was one of the most important writers of his era. He was known for impassioned and honest essays that examined the realities of Black life in America. He also wrote celebrated fiction, including a much-anthologized short story titled “Sonny’s Blues,” which was informed by Baldwin’s early life in Harlem. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Baldwin was well known as a public figure. In 1965, he debated William F. Buckley at the Cambridge Union, in what became one of the most talked-about debates of the twentieth century.

I am Not Your NegroA group of 20 Mount faculty members has been meeting to discuss Baldwin’s famous nonfiction work The Fire Next Time, a book that combines a short public letter Baldwin wrote to his nephew in 1963 with a longer essay from that same year where Baldwin reflects on race, religion, and America. This book helped establish Baldwin’s reputation as a truth-teller, one who refused to abide by familiar, comforting myths or to offer false, naïve hopes in the face of unjust realities.

The Office of Equity and Success hosted a screening of the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” on March 10. Working with James Baldwin’s unfinished accounts of the lives and assassinations of his friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers, director Raoul Peck takes viewers on a journey into Black history, connecting the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. The screening elicited a thought-provoking discussion from Mount students and faculty.

McKinley E. Melton On Wednesday, April 30, McKinley E. Melton, Ph.D. spent a day at the Mount inviting faculty and students to have a deeper conversation with Baldwin. Melton, who is the Kermit O. Paxton and Renee A. Paxton Endowed Teaching Chair & Associate Professor at Gettysburg College, first led a reading group discussion with faculty before presenting a lecture in the evening where he focused on the continued relevance of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. In his discussion with faculty from earlier in the day, Melton showed the group how to read Baldwin’s words carefully, to see what he’s really saying, rather than what we might superficially assume. In his evening seminar, Melton explored The Fire Next Time for a wider campus audience, asking the question, “How does Baldwin’s 1963 analysis of the U.S. at the height of the Civil Rights movement serve as a prophesy to understand and invitation to confront the challenges of today’s society?”

Eddie Glaude Now, the Office of Equity and Success and the College of Liberal Arts are delighted to announce that the Mount will continue its focus on Baldwin and what he can teach us by welcoming the celebrated scholar and public intellectual Eddie Glaude, Jr., Ph.D. to our campus to present the Fall 2022 Ducharme Lecture on September 29, 2022. Glaude is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. The author of many widely read works, Glaude has most recently published a book on Baldwin’s enduring relevance as a guide for the pressing questions of today. Titled Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, this remarkably powerful study of Baldwin was published in 2020 to widespread acclaim. The Mount looks forward to welcoming Glaude to our campus as these important conversations continue.

BACK TO TOP

 

Student Clubs Masthead

As the University bids our graduating seniors farewell with best wishes for a successful future, we wanted to offer the leadership of the student clubs within the Center for Student Diversity (CSD) the opportunity to celebrate the impact of their clubs on the Mount and reflect on the status of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at the Mount. We asked each club leader to respond to the following questions.

  1. What do you see as your club’s most significant contribution to the Mount?
  2. What positive changes have you seen in DEI during your time at the Mount?
  3. What are your hopes for the future of DEI at the Mount?

The students’ answers are listed below, edited for brevity. 

Club

Student Leaders

Club Contribution

Changes in DEI

Future DEI Hopes

Asian Culture Club

President Paige Buchanan, C’22

Increasing awareness and understanding of the Asian community through successful club programming

 

Increased opportunities for students to learn about Asian culture (e.g., Vietnamese mass, Asian foods offered in Patriot, new classes on Asian history and culture)

Further growth and development of Asian community on campus

Increased respect and understanding of Asian culture to combat stereotypes (“Each of us is different and we all carry our heritage in different ways.”)

African Student Association

Public Relations Chair Augusta Conteh, C’22

Vice President Annelle Gambrah, C’23

Unity in diversity

Having a club dedicated to the African diaspora helps students feel safe and increases inclusion

Increase in students of color

More Core classes related to diversity

More classes including literature by authors of color

More proactive and transparent handling of issues negatively impacting students of color

More diverse faculty and staff

Increased awareness of clubs within CSD

Black Student Union

President Ebony Coby, C’22

Engaging in difficult conversations with administrators to help ensure African Americans feel safe and that they belong on campus

Increased opportunities for DEI training for students and faculty

Increased representation of people of color on important committees to ensure their voices are heard

For students to take DEI efforts more seriously; to see how learning about it is important and could lead to huge change on campus

More diverse faculty

 

Student Organization of Latinos

President Madelin Sagastume, C’22

Making our voice heard by working with faculty and administrators

Getting Spanish interpreters at Orientation

Advocating for inclusion of more Latinx authors and perspectives in the Core

This year, speakers such as Dr. Johnson and Dr. Melton illuminating uncomfortable conversations about the realities faced by Black people

Through its student leaders, the Mount is becoming more accountable to the realities that their students of color and non-Catholics experience at the Mount

More leadership development for marginalized students at the Mount

Continue to increase diversity in faculty hiring

Expand the CSD and increase its resources to meet the needs of our diverse campus

True Colors

Jenna Milner, C‘22

Increasing awareness of the LGBTQ+ community on campus

Bringing LGBTQ+ people and allies together

Positive shift in students being able to express themselves on campus

Better inclusion of different communities on campus

More students being recognized and heard by administrators so actions can be taken to make students feel like the Mount is their home

 

Students and Clubs that Made an Impact

1 / 5
Paige Buchanan, Asian Culture Club
2 / 5
August Conteh (L) and Annelle Gambrah (R)
African Student Association
3 / 5
BSU Board pictured at 2022 Miss Mount.
L to R: Ebony Coby, Madison Williams, Annelle Gambrah, Bryan Green.
4 / 5
Madelin Sagastume (SOL)
5 / 5
Jenna Milner, True Colors

BACK TO TOP

DEI Initiatives Highlight

In each newsletter, we will report on progress towards the initiatives listed in Courageous Dialogue, Meaningful Action,
the University DEI Task Force Operational Plan

and the DEI 5-year Strategic Plan (2018-2023).


Objective 6.2.4.1 in the DEI 5-Year Strategic Plan (2018-2023) is to recruit and retain employees who are diverse and culturally competent. As stated in the Mount's Recruitment Procedures guide, the goal of the University's recruitment and hiring process is to achieve an excellent and balanced workforce with representation and participation from diverse sectors of our society. Several of the urgent and priority initiatives in Courageous Dialogue, Meaningful Action, the University DEI Task Force Operational Plan also address recruitment and hiring of more diverse faculty, staff, and administrators.

Many constituencies within the Mount community have been working towards these goals, including the Mount’s Human Resources Office, the Office of Equity and Success, the Fall 2020 committee “Value Our Employees,” and hiring managers across all divisions. In this article, we report on the status and outcomes of these campus-wide efforts.

Initiatives

  • Revision of recruitment policies and procedures
    The Mount's Recruitment Procedures guide has been revised to incorporate a focus on DEI in search and selection procedures. The Mount job template has been updated to place a greater emphasis on our commitment to DEI. There is an expanded list of over 100 places to advertise to target recruitment of minority, women, veteran and disabled jobseekers. In addition, sample candidate interview questions have been added to address competency in diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Implementation of Workday Recruitment system
    Human Resources is now utilizing the Workday Recruitment system, which collects more complete information about applicants, including demographics and where they found out about us. This information allows the University to target advertising dollars more effectively, evaluate the effectiveness of our recruitment procedures, and track trends in applicants over time.
  • Disseminate employee diversity data
    Human resources, in partnership with the ASPIRE Office, has published the Mount Employee DEI dashboard to make employee diversity data widely available and transparent to the Mount community and to evaluate DEI trends over time. 

new hires graphic ‣ Diversity @ the Mount
In FY 2021, 18% of new hires were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), and, as of December 2021, 21% of new hires for FY 2022 were BIPOC.

Outcomes

In the past year, we have more than doubled our DEI advertising partnerships and advertising resources, leading to more diverse candidate pools. In the past two years, we have exceeded our goals for diverse hiring as noted in the Mount's DEI Task Force Operational Plan. In FY 2021, 18% of new hires were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), and, as of December 2021, 21% of new hires for FY 2022 were BIPOC.

These efforts and outcomes arise out of a widespread demand for a more diverse workforce to support our increasingly diverse student population. “In my 19 years at the Mount, I have never seen such universal and consistent support for and action toward diversifying the faculty, administrators and staff at the Mount. It is wonderful!” said Rosie Bolen, Ph.D., director of DEI training and development.

“We are working to make sure that the faculty in front of the classroom more closely mirror the students sitting in the classroom.” ~ Boyd Creasman, Ph.D., Provost

Provost Boyd Creasman, Ph.D., noted that the Mount hired four BIPOC tenure-track faculty last year and three this year. “Faculty are embracing the goal. Department chairs come to me to talk about how we can work together on this effort. The searches over the last two years have included many BIPOC finalists. We are working to make sure that the faculty in front of the classroom more closely mirror the students sitting in the classroom,” he said.

College of Liberal Arts dean Dr. Pete Dorsey explained how we have worked collectively to improve recruitment. “Folks on committees and in Human Resources have worked on our ads and our website, search leaders have networked with friends and colleagues at other institutions, students and faculty members have shown what a friendly and welcoming place the Mount is, and the Deans and Provost Creasman understand the great value a diverse faculty brings to the university and have worked hard to make it happen.”

“We have committed to prioritizing not only diverse hiring practices, but also hiring faculty and staff that demonstrate a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
~ Christine McCauslin, Ph.D., Dean, School of Natural Science and Mathematics

School of Natural Science and Mathematics (SNSM) dean Dr. Christine McCauslin emphasized that “supporting success in our diverse student population is a priority for the SNSM. As a part of this process, we have committed to prioritizing not only diverse hiring practices, but also hiring faculty and staff that demonstrate a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

While the Mount has made important progress in revising hiring practices that has led to positive outcomes, we still have more work to do to ensure a diverse workforce at the Mount. In addition to further improving recruitment efforts, we also need to address employee retention. According to Kristin Hurley, executive director of human resources, next steps include more extensive training for hiring managers and search committees and collaborative efforts to promote equitable retention, including an expanded orientation for new employees. The more community members can increase their knowledge, awareness and skills around diversity, equity and inclusion, the more welcoming and inclusive our campus will be. This will lead to improved retention for both employees and students.

BACK TO TOP

 


Feature Article

Questions? Comments?

Contact Us


BACK TO TOP


Mount St. Mary's University Logo

Mount St. Mary's University • Office of Equity and Success