DEI Message Archive
Updates from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Hello campus community, With a third of the semester behind us, we appreciate the many opportunities offered by multiple areas to engage in dialogue, learning, and connection related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are also excited to welcome Maen Kwok (MA Class of 2023) to our team. In her final semester at Soka, she will be supporting our team working specifically on the DEI Student Advisory Board. The Student Advisory Board is now up and running and we look forward to sharing more about the Board’s efforts this semester and beyond. We hope to see you at many of the events happening this month and wish you all the best as we prepare for the start of Spring and the second half of the semester! We also invite you to see a Black History Month feature below.
Resistance Means to Persevere
Community Voices – Black History Month
Teri Chester | Avelino Pitts | Sasha Woods
Sarah Johnson | Jonathan Wray
“Resistance means to persevere.” “To me, resistance means confidence…going against the norm.” These were two of the responses to the prompt, “What does resistance mean to you?”—a question that was inspired by the 2023 Black History Month Theme: Black Resistance.
The team in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spent time honoring Black History Month by listening to the stories of five Black-identifying Soka community members. They graciously shared their hearts, in hopes of inspiring and allowing others to understand more about their experiences and lives.
We hope that by reading and listening to their stories, you deepen your understanding of the ways in which we are connected and can support each other, remembering that Black history is world history, and it can be honored by all of us every day throughout the year.
Dear Soka Community,
Happy February and Happy Black History Month! This month brings many exciting events on campus, as we start the Spring semester.
We began 2023 with a week-long commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy, with participation from nearly 100 Soka community members and friends. The week began with packing boxes of food at the OC Food Bank, continued with a talk by Reverend Dr. Reginald E. Bachus of Chicago, the film screening of ‘Selma’ followed by small group discussions over dinner, and concluded with a community conversation over lunch about Dr. King’s speech “The Three Evils of Society.”
We’d like to thank those in the Office of Student Leadership and Service Engagement and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights for partnering to make these events happen. And, we extend a special thank you to Christa Niyeze, Gaelle Pierre-Louis, and Maya Klein for taking the lead in planning and creating the vision for these events!
Our Soka commemorative events were filled with the joy of being in community and centering on a transformative vision for the future, and yet just days following the conclusion of these events, the reality of continued violence against Black bodies and people the country over was again brought to the fore. We mourn the passing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols of Memphis and renew our commitment to combatting systemic racism in all of its forms.
As we start this month, which is themed Black Resistance (by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which chooses a theme for Black History Month each year), we invite you to join us in celebrating, honoring, and reaffirming the dignity of Black lives in America, not only this month, but every day.
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team
Happy New Year!
We hope you had a restorative break! As we kick off this new year, we express our appreciation to each of you for your support of the diversity, equity, and inclusion work that took place throughout the fall semester.
This month, we are partnering with the Office of Student Leadership and Service Engagement and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights to bring you four events which not only commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also build upon and continue the work. We hope you can join us at one or more of these special events (details below).
Lastly, in our December 2022 newsletter, we mentioned our intention to send a Holiday Resource before the break. This was meant to be an educational guide for the several holidays observed during the month of December. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were not able to meet our goal of sharing this resource with the community. We apologize for being unable to share this and look forward to making this resource available in the future.
We are so excited to work with you all this semester and year, and thank you again for your partnership, feedback, and important contributions in 2022!
With wishes for a wonderful year ahead,
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team
Events to look forward to:
- Connecting with Colleagues (resuming in February). A space for all female-identifying staff and faculty to connect over lunch, hosted by the Gender Equity Working Group.
- Transforming Community Space (resuming in February). A space (open to all students) to unify the campus through healthy dialogue, listening, and transparent communication.
As we near the end of the calendar year, we would like to give kudos to a wonderful semester filled with incredible opportunities for learning, engagement, and inclusive community building. We are so grateful to you all for your dedication and persistence in being active global citizens. Let’s take a moment to highlight some of the key happenings coming up this month!
The Student Advisory Board (SAB) had their first meeting in November focused on driving the board’s purpose for the Spring semester. The goal of SAB is to work in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the broader community to ensure that our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion translate into meaningful action that represents the needs of our students.
Additionally, the DEI Strategic Planning Committee and the Gender Equity Work Group hosted on Friday, November 18 a training providing tools towards the workshop’s namesake: Leading as Fearless Women. The session focused on highlighting ways to navigate numerous environments with fearless, assertive power toward equitable practices.
There are several holidays practiced and celebrated in the month of December that are salient to diverse cultures. It is important that a global perspective is taken in recognition of the cultural customs of celebrations as we head into the winter break. Although Christmas, has been privileged in the U.S., it is crucial to understand the implications for all the religious and cultural holidays celebrated more broadly and globally. We will be sending out a Holiday Resource before the break to provide an educational tool for further reflection.
Please continue to read below for details on events happening throughout the month!
- Sins Invalid Film Viewing and Student-Led Conversation: A Conversation with Cookies and Hot Cocoa, about this important film which witnesses a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists.
- Human Rights Day 2022 Event: Arts as Activism: Presented by the United Nations Association of the United States of America, OC Chapter in partnership with Soka University of America’s Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights.
As we enter the halfway mark of the semester, we are so grateful for the abundance of opportunities offered throughout the community to engage in DEI dialogue, learning, and engagement. We would like to take a moment to highlight some of the key happenings coming up for this month!
- Before we do, we would like to highlight the Soka LGBTQ+ Awareness and Advocacy Training that occurred last week. Faculty and staff were joined by Dr. Meg E. Evans for a 2-hour workshop to explore LGBTQ+ identities through reverent language, laws and policies, and shared practices for LGBTQ+ safety and inclusion. In the interactive workshop, faculty and staff were provided tools to support those who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Soka community and beyond resulting in more affirming and welcoming spaces for all.
- The Office of Financial Aid recently announced a new scholarship opportunity that is available to current second, third and fourth-year undergraduate students. The Soka Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scholarship is designed to expand access to education for students from minoritized groups and/or students who exemplify a commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Soka University of America community.
- November is Indigenous Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich histories, diverse cultures, and important contributions of our nation’s first people. This month is an invitation to learn more about respecting the dignity of those around us and develop the skills we need to put what we learn into practice. Check out our Indigenous Heritage Month Ally Pack which can be accessed by clicking on the archived November newsletter.
- We have partnered with the USC Race and Equity Center, to administer the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) Staff Racial Climate Survey. The survey is open to all Soka staff and was distributed via email. Participation in this survey contribute to a campus climate that strives to ensure people feel supported and included. The survey will remain open until Thursday, November 3.
- The DEI Strategic Planning Committee and the Gender Equity Work Group is hosting a Connecting with Colleagues, a 1st Tuesdays gathering to connect female-identifying staff and faculty during the lunch hour on Tuesday, November 1st.
- “Thankstaking” Event: Many of us who grew up in the United States are accustomed to the tradition of gathering together and sharing food during the Thanksgiving holiday. The DEI office wanted to offer that experience to students who might not have had that opportunity, while also acknowledging the truth of the origins of Thanksgiving.
“Thankstaking” recognizes the unlawful theft of the land of Indigenous people who were here first and continue to fight for human rights. The Nov. 18 event included conversation, dinner, and music and was held in the spirit of understanding that gratitude looks different in other parts of the world and with the aim to learn about diverse perspectives from each other.
- Some of the other DEI related activities taking place this month in other areas throughout the university are noted below:
- Celebrating Indigenous Heritage Month: “Let’s Talk” A dialogue with Adelia Sandoval, Acjachemen Elder and Spiritual Overseer (Open to the Soka community)
- 2nd Annual Diversity Employment Day Career Fair, in partnership with the Office of Career Development and Internships
- A Special Event called “Is Democracy at Stake? Brazil’s Electoral Battles” – A Conversation with Ambassador Todd Chapman and Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista, Jr. (Presented by The World Affairs Council of Orange County in partnership with Soka University of America’s International Studies Concentration & The Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights.)
- Asian Diasporas Affinity Space Hangout (for all students, staff, and faculty who identify as part of the Asian Diaspora)
- Muslim Affinity Space Hangout (for all students, staff, and faculty who identify as Muslim)
- Leading as Fearless Women Training for all Female-Identifying Faculty and Staff (Hosted by Culturally Intelligent Training & Consulting)
Note: “Affinity Hangouts” is an annual series of casual social events for Soka community members who identify with that affinity, to meet other campus community members who also share that affinity through their identities. Affinity Hangouts makes it possible for students, staff, and faculty to develop connections across the campus in the first semester of the academic year.
Thank you for visiting the website for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Below, you will find some key updates about this month’s happenings on campus. Each month, we will aim to update this page to include announcements about the work that is underway. In the archives section of our page, you can also see an archived version of the messages that we’ve shared at the start of each month with the internal Soka community. We welcome and appreciate your feedback!
- We are thrilled to welcome four new student employees to the Office and thank them for the work that they’ve begun to do and will do throughout the year. Please click here to learn more about them and reach out to them with ideas, feedback, questions, or concerns related to the work that is underway in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion!
- This month of October is both LGBT History Month and Global Diversity Awareness Month. Throughout the month, there are several opportunities to educate ourselves and build greater capacity for honoring the dignity of the people around us.
- As a part of our commitment to continue doing so, we will be offering an Allyship Training twice a year for all faculty and staff. This training is intended for those who have an interest in learning how to better support and care for the folks in our Soka community, and beyond, who identify as LGBTQ+. The first training will be hosted by facilitator Meg E. Evans, PhD (information below), and held virtually on Tuesday, October 25th from 3:00 – 5:00pm.
- At the start of October, we will launch our racial climate survey for staff, as a part of our effort to continue collecting data to inform the university’s ongoing long-range strategic planning. We extend our appreciation to our staff for participating in the survey, and welcome anyone who wants to see updates about the DEI Strategic Planning Process to click here to learn more.
- Some of the other DEI related activities taking place this month in other areas throughout the university are noted below!
- Fridays on the Green: Student Activities hosted the world’s first and only LGBTQ+ Mariachi Band in the world!
- Jewish affinity hangout (for all students, staff, and faculty who identify as Jewish)
- LGBTQIA+ affinity hangout (for all students, staff, and faculty who identify as LGBTQIA+ and questioning)
- Southeast Asian Affinity Space (for all students, staff, and faculty who identify as Southeast Asian or Southeast Asian descent)
- Latine Identity Panel Discussion (A community panel discussion exploring stories of identity and factors that have shaped them, bringing together a diverse group of perspectives from across the university.)
- Book club discussion on the book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (open to all students, staff, and faculty)
- An exclusive conversation with two leading historians of public health, Dr. Okezi T. Otovo and Dr. Jonathan M. Weber | A Virtual Talk Co-Sponsored by the International Studies Concentration and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights: “Public Health Histories in Brazil and Mexico” (Open to the Soka community)
Dear Soka Community,
Welcome back! Our team in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion wishes you a wonderful start to the semester! We hope you find the below resources useful and welcome your feedback as we aim to share in a way that is most meaningful for the community.
One exciting initiative we are introducing this month is our Soka Ally Pack (see below for more!). The monthly Ally Pack will be shared as an educational tool and with an invitation for each of us to build our capacity to be better allies. An ally is someone whose personal commitment to fighting oppression and prejudice is reflected in their willingness to educate oneself, challenge their own discomfort, learn, and practice the skills of being an ally, and take action toward creating change. Our collaborative efforts to build a more wise and compassionate society that treats every one of us equitably and with dignity benefits us all. Regardless of our identities, each of us benefits when we take steps to end prejudice and discrimination in our society. We hope you find the Soka Ally Pack useful and look forward to hearing from you about it!
This month, we celebrate many important dates and occasions, including Latine Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15). In our continued efforts to drive inclusion and incorporate global perspectives, we are electing to use the term Latine over Latinx in celebrating and highlighting Latine content. Some background on the differences between Latine and Latinx: Latine is a globally inclusive term that centers language, culture, and gender neutrality. Much of the criticism of the use of Latinx comes from the notion that English speakers are imposing a difficult word like Latinx that has interpretive challenges on Spanish-speaking people, which experts believe is less inclusive than it claims to be. Others who have explored the word’s roots perceive it as a US-centric method to exert influence over Latin America. With these considerations in mind, we will be using Latine to align our language with our mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We invite you to join us in using the term Latine, as well, and continue to reflect on how we can strengthen our practices to be more inclusive. See below for some resources you can use to jump start the semester with an inclusive lens:
Additionally, we have access to informative videos that features content on anti-racism, inclusion, and allyship to name a few on LinkedIn Learning. They have over 100 courses on DEI content which include Using Gender Inclusive Language, Become an Inclusive Leader, Allyship and Advocacy Across Our Differences. LinkedIn Learning can be accessed here.
Lastly, we acknowledge and deeply appreciate the work of our DEI Summer Team Members: Hyunseo, Judy, and Aashish! Thank you for all that you’ve done to provide our community with educational resources centered on raising our awareness of DEI.
Here’s to a beautiful start to the semester!
The Team in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Hello everyone! Congratulations on kicking off the new academic year, and a warm welcome to the Undergraduate Class of 2026 and Graduate Class of 2024! We also extend a welcome to new faculty and staff joining us! On behalf of the team in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), we can’t wait to get to know you, support you, and partner with you this year.
Our website will house regular updates about the work that is underway in the office, so please tune in to see what’s new and explore the Archives section for details about work that has taken place since the Office opened in 2020.
As we kick off this year, we are excited to introduce Jacqueline Cid, who has transitioned from Student Activities to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion! We are thrilled to welcome Jacqueline to the team.
Questions and feedback are welcomed and encouraged, so please reach out at any time. In the meantime, enjoy reading and follow us on IG (@sokaDEI) to stay in the loop of upcoming projects and events.
Thank you for all that you will do to shape our culture of inclusion based on respect for the dignity of life this year. We look forward to connecting with you!
Soka’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team
Enhancing Diversity in All Areas of the University
- We are conducting a review of our courses related to race and ethnicity as a part of our continuing efforts to enhance curricular offerings and respond to ongoing feedback from students. Once the review is completed, more information will be shared.
- Dr. Hortense J. Spillers, who was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has joined the Soka faculty as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Literature. This fall, she is teaching a course “The Idea of Black Culture.”
- Although a search for the position of a presidential hire in Black Studies was conducted last year, no appointment was made. This year, the Vice President for Academic Affairs will again lead the search for a presidential hire in African studies and/or Africana studies. The search committee will be comprised of REHR Fellows (faculty and students).
- Our strategy for diversifying SUA faculty and staff, created in 2019, is continuing to be carried out and we will continue focusing on expanding the applicant pools, providing diversity training for search committees, expanding the short list, and recruiting through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity.
Building a Community of Care and Belonging
- Campus Climate Support Program: The Soka University of America bias reporting and responding system is being rolled out to all members of the campus community. Feedback about the program is being solicited on an ongoing basis to ensure it reflects and meets the needs of the community.
- Community Forums: We will continue to hold regular community forums for all members of the Soka community. During the fall, we will hold community conversations about the university diversity, equity, and inclusion values created during the strategic planning process.
- Collaboration: The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is launching a Student Advisory Board to work with the Office. An overview of the advisory board can be found online. Ongoing collaboration with faculty and staff will be carried out through working groups.
- Creating Resource Spaces: Student Affairs will be creating a physical resource space to be utilized by student affinity groups registered through the Office of Student Activities. Residential Life will also be initiating the “Embrace a Living Room” program to promote and highlight minoritized identities. These spaces will be available for students/student organizations to use and can be reserved by sponsoring affinity groups.
- Training and Education: We will continue making training and resources available to the community. Below is an overview of the training that community members are taking part in during fall 2021:
- First-year students participated in a three-day “I Am: We Are” diversity, equity, and inclusion orientation series, and completed an online DEI training module.
- Second-year students participated in a two-day DEI orientation series with sessions led by DEI and antiracist expert facilitator and consultant, Dr. Sean Larry Stevens.
- Student leaders participated in DEI training in August 2021.
- Ongoing workshops and learning opportunities related to DEI will be crafted with input from undergraduate students.
- First year graduate students will complete an online DEI training module.
- Ongoing workshops and professional learning opportunities related to DEI are being crafted with input from graduate students.
- Faculty and staff will complete a mandatory online DEI training module.
- Ongoing workshops and professional learning opportunities will be crafted based on input from faculty and staff.
Planning, Sustaining and Measuring our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work
- The launch of the Student Advisory Board to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will ensure students are engaged as partners in our ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
- This fall, we will conduct a National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climate (NACCC) racial climate survey for our students.
- This spring, we will conduct a campus wide diversity and equity campus climate survey through the Higher Education Data Sharing consortium.
- The DEI Strategic Planning Process will continue through this academic year.
- The Student Affairs Diversity Committee, which was formed in fall 2020 with student affairs staff representatives, will continue this academic year to develop a department-wide strategy for DEI.
- Through our Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA) membership, representatives from Soka University of America will continue to attend monthly eConvenings, each session focused on approaches for achieving racial equity across areas on college campuses.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of Soka University of America’s opening, we continue to advance our work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We recognize the need to address individual and systemic oppression that impacts everyone navigating society, and remain committed to fostering global citizens who contribute to changing this fabric into one that is based on respect for the dignity of life. We will continue to work together with students, faculty, and staff to ensure every member of our community feels a true sense of belonging at Soka.
We are committed to taking action and continuing dialogue about identity and social justice. We will engage in dialogue more deeply, effectively, and thoughtfully so we can hear the voices of our entire community and work alongside them to make change.
Through this process, we aim to move away from the binaries that have been used to discuss and enact change in society, while creating focused and universal approaches that will be assessed by how they help us advance our goal of equity and justice on campus for all. Toward that end, we are highlighting some of the efforts that are underway, which will continue to evolve and develop.
Enhancing Diversity in All Areas of the University
- Three new Black-identifying faculty and staff were hired in summer 2020.
- The search committee for a Presidential hire in Black Studies, chaired by the vice president for Academic Affairs, was formed in March 2021. The committee is comprised of the fellows of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights.
- Through the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights, new courses related to the issues of race, ethnicity and human rights are being developed; and the center will assist in the development of additional academic programming.
- During the 2019-2020 academic year, a multi-faceted strategy for diversifying SUA faculty was created to include: expanding the applicant pools, providing diversity training for search committees, expanding the short list, and recruiting through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity.
Building a Community of Care and Belonging
- Anti-bias Reporting: We are in the process of creating an anti-bias reporting and response system that will go live in fall 2021, incorporating the input of students.
- Community Forums: We will hold regular community forums for all members of the Soka community.
- Mental Health Services: We have improved our mental health services by contracting a Black-identifying counselor to support Black-identifying students, and giving students access to an online counseling platform for minoritized individuals to pair with a counselor of a shared identity.
- Collaboration: As of spring 2020, student affinity organizations are officially being supported by the Office of Student Activities. Working with the affinity groups, several collaborative programs have been hosted by Student Activities and the Office of Career Development, including for first-generation college students. We remain committed to including student input in creating future programs.
- Embrace a Living Room: Once students return to campus, Residential Life will be initiating the “Embrace a Living Room” program to promote and highlight minoritized identities. The Living Rooms will be available for residents to use and can be reserved by sponsoring affinity groups. All student affinity groups registered through the Office of Student Activities may submit a proposal to Residential Life for consideration.
A number of DEI trainings have taken place over the last academic year, and comprehensive training is being developed out of the Office of DEI. They are listed below in order of occurrence.
- Effective spring 2021: All students are being required to take an online DEI course in the spring to register for fall classes.
- Spring 2021: Athletic department staff completed a six-module certificate program hosted by LGBT SportSafe.
- Fall 2020: First years participated in new student orientation mandatory eight-part DEI educational sessions which will be expanded upon in subsequent years.
- Fall 2020: Student-athletes participated in diversity and anti-discrimination training.
- Fall 2020: Athletics department staff participated in separate mandatory training from RISE.
- Fall 2020: Student Affairs staff participated in mandatory DEI training from Dr. Carmen Rivera.
- Spring 2020: Staff and faculty participated in mandatory unconscious bias training led by Dr. Bryant T. Marks from the National Institute on Race and Equity. Dr. Marks also held a separate unconscious bias training specifically tailored for our Public Safety staff.
- Winter 2020 – Spring 2021: Staff and faculty participated in mandatory harassment and discrimination training which also covered Title IX and Clery Act with more in-depth training for faculty and those in supervisory roles.
Planning, Sustaining and Measuring our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work
- Launched the DEI Strategic Planning Process in spring 2021.
- Unity and Diversity Council was formed in fall 2020.
- Student Affairs Diversity Committee was formed in fall 2020 with representatives from all different areas to develop a department-wide strategy for DEI.
- Became an inaugural member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA).
- Eight representatives from Soka University of America have attended monthly eConvenings, each session focused on approaches for achieving racial equity across areas on college campuses.
- We will conduct a National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climate (NACCC) racial climate survey in fall 2021 through LACRELA.
- Conducted Promise54 DEI Climate Survey in fall 2020, and using findings as a baseline for further planning.
The actions we have taken in response to the original set of student demands presented to the university in November 2019 can be found on a Demands and Actions document online. We reiterate our commitment to working in collaboration with all students to create the most inclusive campus.
Members and Friends of the Soka Community,
Thank you for visiting the webpage for the newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This page will continue to evolve as new initiatives develop and programs get underway, and it will serve as a central location for sharing campus developments relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
At this important juncture in the history of the university, we also face a turning point in our world. Now, more than ever, we see the tremendous need for the steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life that Soka aims to foster.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion as defined by Soka’s mission and values are rooted in a systems-way of thinking, where each person polishes and advances the “other,” where each individual and the “other” foster mutual growth, from which is born a true respect and compassion for each other. The work will be about building our humanity and character individually and collectively, and collaborating to ensure that community practices and policies align with our mission.
One of the immediate focuses of the office will be rolling out more comprehensive training and educational opportunities for the community.
The Office of DEI will serve as the central body carrying out and supporting SUA’s ongoing efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will work closely with the DEI Strategic Planning Committee—responsible for short and long-range planning and assessment—and the Unity and Diversity Council (UDC)—responsible for offering guidance and advice to the office. The below links will contain ongoing updates from each body.
I am sincerely looking forward to connecting with you and engaging in this important and transformative work together.
Manager for Diversity Initiatives and Community Building