UW News

March 6, 2008

Building community campuswide with faculty/staff groups

UW News

The “C” in LCVI stands for community. And that’s just what Chesca Ward is working to create by promoting new faculty and staff affinity groups on campus.

Ward, a diversity specialist in the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, said she noticed the lack of such groups when she joined the UW in 2006 (with a healthy resume that featured work at Microsoft). With the full support of Sheila Edwards Lange, vice president for minority affairs and vice provost for diversity, she started meeting with people across campus to see “whether this would be a good concept for the University.”

“Dr. Lange made this one of her priority initiatives,” Ward said, adding that the Office of Minority Affairs “has devoted time and resources to support affinity groups, not only in coming together, but in sustaining them.”

Ward said interest has run high in the initial planning meetings she’s attended on the effort to renew or create new campus affinity groups. “The energy in the room at these meetings has been great,” she said.

Ward also knows that such groups can improve the recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color as well as those with disabilities and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning. “For faculty or staff, if they are considering coming here it gives us a venue to say, ‘Look, we have a community built in.'”

So, mindful that the Leadership, Community and Values Initiative (LCVI) is promoted when campus communities thrive, here is a review of existing faculty/staff groups as well as ones just getting going, with contact information so you can learn more, or even join.

If you have questions about these groups or about Ward’s work in promoting such associations on campus, you may call her at 206-616-0474 or e-mail her at qsw@u.washington.edu.  

Native American faculty/staff group

Lisa Rey Thomas, a research scientist with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says a new group for Native American faculty and staff met for the first time last November at the invitation of Ward and Lange. The group has met twice since and plans monthly meetings from now on.

Thomas said the group, currently called the Native American Faculty and Staff at the UW, or (NAFSUW), is thinking of changing its name to be more inclusive of Alaska Natives and First Nations — the term for Canadians of aboriginal descent — as well as Native Americans.

“Currently, there are 57 Native faculty and staff on our roster and the group will soon review staff lists to add others,” she said. “This group has a wonderful mix of more academically oriented faculty as well as staff that represent diverse departments and jobs on campus.”

Thomas and Augustine McCaffrey, manager of academic programs for The Graduate School, created a draft planning document for the group. The group has identified two activities it will next engage in.

  • One is to review and provide feedback on a presentation for the House of Knowledge, a traditional longhouse and multiservice gathering and learning space to be built on the Seattle campus. The project is scheduled for completion in 2012, according to the University Diversity Council Web site.
  • The other is to develop a memo to UW leadership that formally introduces the group and its goals. The memo also will note, Thomas said, “the lack of AIAN representation on UW campuses with regards to faculty, staff and administration” and invites leadership to partner with the group to address the disparities.

Thomas noted, too, that there already some campus groups for Native Americans, “as well as some very innovative research projects being done in partnership with tribes.” One is called the Breakfast Group, which she said “provides an agenda-free opportunity for Native folks to get together, share some food, network, and provide support to each other.” NAFSUW, she said, “is the more formal group that does meet with an agenda and sets goals.”

Those seeking more information or wishing to join may contact Thomas at lrthomas@u.washington.edu.  

African-American faculty and staff group

Namura Nkeze, is an academic counselor in the Gateway Center and a contact for the Black Faculty and Staff group at the UW. Ward said Nkeze and Jai Anana-Elliot, director of undergraduate diversity services for the Michael G. Foster School of Business, are the co-founders of a black faculty and staff group begun in 2005. Nkeze said the group has about 60 members on its listserv, but only about five people regularly attend the group’s monthly meetings.

She added, however, “We are getting re-energized and focusing our energy on increasing member participation.” The group’s mission, she explained, is “to foster a greater sense of community and mutual support among the black faculty and staff of the University through mentoring and networking in an effort to provide an organized support system that will enhance the cultural diversity within the University, as well as enhance and support the academic mission of the University.”

As for issues, Nkeze wrote that the group has decided to focus on elements of the LCVI, or the Leadership, Community and Values Initiative. African-American faculty and staff, she said, “were the least satisfied group at the UW.

For more information on this group or to join, contact Nkeze at nnkeze@u.washington.edu.  

Staff and Faculty With Disabilities Affinity Group

Michael Richardson, program manager for DO-IT — which stands for Disabilities, Opportunities, Internet working Technology — based in the UW Technology office, is the contact for the Staff and Faculty with Disabilities Affinity Group. He also chairs the UW Advisory Committee on Disability Issues.

Richardson explained in an e-mail the background for such a group: “In the spirit of diversity and the Americans with Disabilities Act, staff and faculty with disabilities, as well as those with serous health conditions, are entitled to a welcoming campus climate. They are entitled to access, support and, when appropriate, reasonable accommodations.”

He added, “Quite often, employees with disabilities may choose not to disclose their disability due to fear of reprisal, harassment, or negative repercussions affecting one’s job or job performance.

“The purpose of the Staff and Faculty with Disabilities Affinity Group is to create a comfortable forum to raise issues that affect staff and faculty with disabilities. There is a need for voice and participation in how disability and access issues are addressed and services provided.”

As the group begins to come together, Richardson said a discussion list will be established to recruit members and, he said, “to begin determining what is working well and what is not, when it comes to being an employee with a disability.” After that, he said, regular group meetings will be scheduled.

Anyone interested in being involved in this group should contact Richardson mike67@u.washington.edu.  

UW Latino/a Faculty and Staff Association (LFSUW)

Michelle Habell-Pallan, an associate professor in Women Studies, said in an e-mail that this group succeeds one that formerly existed for faculty only that has not been active in recent years. The new group, she said, formed in the fall of 2007 is an organization for both faculty and staff.

She said the group is considering a Web site that would function as a one-stop information page for both the UW and the outside community.

She said the group described itself in the following way: “an advocacy, leadership, development and social network whose mission is to address Latino/a issues in higher education.” These issues include the educational concerns and advancement of the UW Latino/a community ― recruitment and retention, progress of faculty and staff through the ranks, and enhancing knowledge of Latino/a educational contributions.

“Our goal is to highlight scholarship produced about Latino/a communities, to spotlight staff contributions and to promote social and cultural activities that relate to Latino communities on and off campus,” the group has written, adding that it strives to create community and a support network facilitating Latinos and Latinas as a visible and viable part of the University environment and leadership. We serve all campus allies and, through balancing our responsibilities to all, we maximize value to each of them.”

Anyone wishing to join may e-mail group member Tina Aguilar, assistant to the executive director of Media Relations and Communications, at aguilar@u.washington.edu.

Faculty/staff groups for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning

This group is still in the planning stages. There used to be a group called GLUE, for Gay and Lesbian University Employees, says Jennifer Self, coordinator of the Q Center on campus, but it has not been active in recent years.

Self has attended meetings, coordinated by Ward, to plan a new faculty-staff group for employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning. “And we have a number of faculty and staff who are interested,” she said. She cited the University of California, Berkeley, as an example of a campus with “an amazing network” for gay faculty and staff.

Self added, “I just want to give props to Chesca for all the work she’s doing. It’s a huge job and she’s paying attention to all the populations that really need affinity groups on campus. I just want to thank her.”

And then there is BOHGOF, a longtime campus group for gay and lesbian graduate students and others. Its name betrays its lighthearted approach: It’s called Bitter Old Hags and Grumpy Old Fags.

James Fesalbon, an administrative specialist in the dean’s office for the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, is the group’s staff adviser. He said the group was started to serve graduate students, but that others joined when GLUE disbanded. “Like myself, for example.”

Fesalbon said the group maintains a listserv with about 270 names on it but that only 10 to 15 people show up for meetings, which tend to be held at the start and the end of each quarter. He said the group’s name was chosen to be humorous and slightly subversive in a fun way. (Bowling, or other competitions where the name of a team is called out or posted publicly, can be interesting, he said.)

Fesalbon said the group is now considering changing its name. The challenge, he said, is to come up with a name that indicates the group means to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, faculty and staff, as well as “allies.” He’s open to suggestions. He’s also the contact for anyone wanting to join. You can call him at 206-221-5434 or, perhaps better, e-mail bohgofs@u.washington.edu. (Note the “s” after the name. The address without the “s” is for the listserv, which only members can use.) The Web site for the group is http://students.washington.edu/bohgofs.

Faculty/staff group for Asian and Pacific American members of the UW community.

There is currently a faculty-staff group for Asian and Pacific American (APA) women, and it is overseen by Cynthia Del Rosario, director of graduate minority recruitment and retention for the College of Education.

Del Rosario said the group she oversees is more social and less formal and institutional than the new one being created. Women wishing to join her group may contact her by e-mail at cyn@u.washington.edu.  

Ward also is working to create a larger APA group to serve the whole campus in a somewhat more formal way.

Anyone wishing more information on the APA staff group — or how Ward’s office is helping all of these groups thrive — may contact Ward.