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Equity Champions Program Coming in Fall

New initiative to feature DEIB resources and more

Story Series
Action: Racial Justice and Equity

Members of the Bridgewater State University community seeking to learn more about racial justice and equity will soon have a dedicated online hub featuring resources, as well as live events, workshops and more.

It’s all part of the Equity Champions Program, a collaboration between the Division of Human Resources and Talent Management (HRTM) and the Division of Student Success, Equity and Diversity, that will be piloted over summer break before a planned fall launch.

The program’s areas of focus are diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (known by the acronym DEIB). It was the brainchild of Jazzmyn Rodrigues, ’15, director of human resources equity in HRTM.

“People were really looking for professional development that could help with DEIB,” she said. “I began asking what initiatives were in place to help people build knowledge, skills and confidence in these areas so that folks could feel comfortable in this space. A lot of my own background is in empowering folks to do these things on their own, too.”

The program’s establishment partially fulfills one of the recommendations put forward by the members of the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice (created 2020, report issued May 2021). It called for the HRTM staff to develop for members of the BSU community appropriate professional development opportunities in areas associated with racial equity and justice within their campus roles.

Central to the program will be a website for members of the BSU community and a platform on ENGAGE to showcase a calendar of upcoming events. 

The four tiers are: ally, advocate, changemaker and champion; each will be defined in depth on the forthcoming hub.

Those wishing to take this journey will be aided by a multitude of elements that form the core of the Equity Champion Program. These include an optional up-front assessment, in-person and virtual workshops, a “Read, Watch, Listen” database for self-paced instruction, racial-equity training through LinkedIn, and an assemblage of best practices published by BSU’s own Racial Equity and Justice Institute, a voluntary collaboration of higher-education institutions and organizations committed to racial equity in higher education.

Locating all these resources in a single hub makes for a user-friendly interface, and, as Ms. Rodrigues said, shines a light on BSU’s racial equity and justice efforts and accomplishments to date: “There’s so much good work happening on this campus, people who are hosting trainings and new initiatives being developed, so we wanted to house it all in one place and showcase the great work that’s being done here. It’s a hub for all the great things that are happening on campus or externally.”

Partnered with Ms. Rodrigues on the project is Yolany Gonell, assistant vice president for Student Success, Equity and Diversity. She said that in talking to those around campus, convenience was important for a new initiative like the Equity Champions Program.

“They want an opportunity to see everything in one place,” she said.

She added that she believes users will enjoy the variety and flexibility built into the program and the site.

“Participants can choose their own adventure,’” she said. (Yes, “fun” is also part of the program’s equation.)

Guiding much of the planning for the Champions program, Ms. Gonell added, was a book called From Equity Talk to Equity Walk. Her previous experience includes working on issues related to racial equity, trauma and restorative practices. She was given a clear mission when she came to BSU, and this new initiative dovetails with it well.

“With my appointment, one of the charges was to think about how to expand this work and how to engage with our collaborators to discover best practices and create new ways of thinking about racial equity,” she said. “This seemed like a natural partnership (with HRTM) for us.”

Two fans of the developing Champions program are Dr. Sabrina Gentlewarrior, vice president of Student Success, Equity and Diversity; and Keri Powers, HRTM’s vice president.

“Equity competency development is a lifelong process,” Dr. Gentlewarrior said. “The Equity Champions Program is the right next step. The Equity Champions Program is a way to take the university’s values and put them into equity-minded action on behalf of the students we serve, but also on behalf of the people of color who work here, as well as the larger community we serve.”

As for Ms. Powers, she was impressed with both the initiative, as well as with Ms. Rodrigues’ and Ms. Gonell’s work on it.

“Yolany and Jazzmyn deserve all the credit,” she said. “It’s a great model, and I think it meets employees where they are. With the fact that it’s self-paced and personalized, I think it’s going to be a great program.”

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