Clark State college has several initiatives in place to support diversity, equity, inclusion

Crystal Jones, vice president for marketing, diversity and community impact at Clark State Community College./Contributed.

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Crystal Jones, vice president for marketing, diversity and community impact at Clark State Community College./Contributed.

Clark State College has several initiatives in place to support diversity, equity and inclusive (DEI) environments for students, employees and the community.

Crystal Jones, vice president for marketing, diversity, and community impact at the college, spoke Monday about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives during the weekly Springfield Rotary Club meeting.

Jones began by defining diversity, equity and inclusion. She said they want to make sure all people are included and feel a sense of belonging.

“Everyone comes in at a different place,” she said. “(We want to) make them feel like they’re wanted here.”

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Jones said the Board of Trustees and President Jo Alice Blondin are committed to the work, and talked about at least 11 DEI initiatives that are in place.

One initiative in place is “mirrors and windows” that started in the summer of 2020. It’s an internal and informal meeting led by staff and faculty where they talk about topics such as disabilities, difficult conversations, and share their best practices and have an open dialogue in a safe space to learn from each other.

A second initiative is diversity in the workplace training. The college, partnering with the Springfield Foundation and the Greater Springfield Partnership, has a three-part series to educate, engage and celebrate DEI initiatives and outcomes with its community partners and businesses to help them define and create diversity statements. The first “education” session was held last fall, the upcoming “engagement” session will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 20, and the third “celebration” session will be held this summer.

Raphael Allen, director of community outreach and engagement for the Springfield Foundation, also spoke at the meeting, saying they want to uplift DEI in the community

“We can’t work on DEI if we’re not doing it ourselves,” he said.

Allen added that not only have they partnered with Clark State and others for DEI efforts, but they are also looking at creating funds for organizations to support that.

“If our goal or mission is the same, why not tackle it together?,” he said. “We need to represent the community, not a certain population in the community.”

The Clark State also facilitated diversity training for nearly 400 employees of the city of Springfield. Jones said this was a customized training, but there is a possibility to host and fund training for others as well.

Entering its third year, another initiative is the college’s participation in Achieving the Dream that gives them an opportunity to close achievement gaps.

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Achieving the Dream is a non-profit organization that leads a network of community colleges to help students, particularly low-income students, and students of color, achieve academic goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity.

Jones said this is a data driven approach to design a student-focused culture, and that the college is focusing on holistic student support with onboarding experience as well as course completion. Jones expressed that, according to data, a lot of different students are applying, but getting lost in the process.

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