misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Leadership

Diversity and Equity in a Community College

By on May 26, 2018

What does it mean to address equity and diversity in a community college setting? More specifically, as an academic administrator at Santa Barbara City College? I recently had the opportunity to reflect upon this very question and the topic feels important enough to share more broadly.

Why is diversity and equity important?

Addressing diversity and equity is important because almost 60% of the students at Santa Barbara City College, where I am employed, are students of color. I suspect this is a common statistic for many of our California community colleges. It is important because the research clearly indicates that students of color are less successful in completion and retention. It is important because we don’t always know who the students are in our classrooms and what personal and systemic barriers may exist in their lives – whether that be race, gender, economic, or lack of educational experience in the family. It is important because the majority of faculty and staff may not be members of the student equity populations and yet they will be called upon to support and teach these students. It is important because we all have blind spots, and unconscious biases, that inform the services and programs of the institution. And as an academic administrator, and campus leaders, we need to have the most understanding and the clarity for addressing diversity and equity issues.

What can we do?

First, addressing diversity and equity always begins with oneself. Do we have awareness of what we bring to the institution? I am a middle class, white, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical male with a graduate degree. I am a father to an autistic young person with a developmental disability. And my mother came out as gay in her forties. All this informs the way I think, understand, and view the world. My worldview is also built upon a mindfulness practice that includes training on equanimity, understanding and compassion. This background helps me serve and be an advocate of diversity and equity but it also means there are inherent biases present. Personal awareness means that any employee can be a voice and advocate for diversity and equity issues. I see myself as a learner who must continually engage with my biases, both known and unknown. On occasion, this has been quite a surprise. For me, this means trying to be humble, listen to understand, acknowledge my ignorance, and use my place of privilege to support change and advocate for others. This is the exploration and conversation that I would encourage and pursue in this position – to help transform those already present in the institution to be more equity-minded and to help others to be learners.

Second, addressing diversity and equity requires us to look at the data. We have made great strides, but the systemic issues still remain. We have offered a great deal of employee education on our campus over the past 5-6 years. A lot of data has been presented, discussed, and open forums have been offered. This brought forward the opportunity to create the Student Equity Committee and the Equity Plan. These are big changes. And yet, our institution has moved at what feels like a very slow pace. I know these are large issues, and I also know how challenging it can be to influence change. This year as dean, I began to make data more accessible to departments who offer online courses. My office generated a report for each department and sent it to the chairs along with some very specific questions for exploring the data. We have the capacity to continue to expand this effort by getting the information directly into the hands of those who have the ability to impact student learning.

Third, in the area of faculty hiring – both adjunct and contract. Working with our department chairs and managers to transform the job announcement and the interview experience can expand the colleges opportunity to create an employee base that is diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded. Our Equal Employment Opportunity Committee is taking leadership with this and I’m honored to be on the team. Through this effort, we will automatically influence our student experience and hopefully student success.

These are three ideas, and perhaps another is to turn to those voices on campus who have experience and knowledge of diversity and equity issues. To turn to them and empower and support their efforts. I will be an advocate.

Waking Up

In conclusion, let me offer a short story from my perspective as a white, cisgender male. I remember my very first professional employment in 1994 and how they did a diversity workshop for all faculty and staff. It scared me just a little because I didn’t understand much of what was shared. But at the same time, it immediately became an interest for me to pursue because inequity seemed so clear. Since then, I have remained active in my professional and personal life by continuing to educate myself through training and workshops. For many of the last 5-6 years, I have served as a lead in bringing voices of equity and diversity to campus through work on the Professional Development Advisory Committee and the Equity Committee.

A couple years ago, I offered a deep listening workshop based on my experiences with meditation. In this workshop, we included a panel of student voices who came out of prison. During that session, I felt like many of the audience members “woke up” from something they hadn’t seen or heard before. It was a powerful experience. More recently, I put out an idea for our white employees who were interested in learning more about what it means to be a white ally. The response was very positive and a group of a dozen employees met over 8-10 weeks to read and study the book What it Means to be White by Robin DiAngelo where we explored the concepts of white privilege and white fragility.

We have much to learn as a collective community supporting our students on their path. And we have much to be inspired by for the caring and passion of our faculty, staff, and administrators.

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

By on June 2, 2014

At twenty-six years old, rocketing out of Silicon Valley at the dawn of the graphical web browser, I went to work as Electronic Media Librarian at University High School in San Francisco. It’s been twenty years since that day, and I have had a very rich and satisfying career serving students and faculty in four institutions. Twelve of those years were in the role of Library Director – four years at Notre Dame High School, Belmont and eight years at a Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). I have always had an outward facing attitude and spent significant time working outside the library. In all those years, my office has always been located in the library. That’s about to change.

Today I have accepted the position of Dean, Educational Programs at Santa Barbara City College. This is a good day! I feel excited, confident, honored, and ready for the challenge of my new role and new responsibilities.

What does this Dean, Educational Programs actually mean at Santa Barbara City College? I will be responsible to the Executive Vice President for Educational Programs and will serve as the academic and administrative leader for English as Second Language, School of Modern Languages, Physical Education/Health Education/Dance, Library, Faculty Resource Center, Student Learning Outcomes Coordination, Faculty Professional Development, Distance Education Lead, Liaison with the Information Technology Division, Grant Development and Administration, and New Program Development.

It’s a big job, but that’s how we roll at community colleges.

My office will move from the library to the administration building. That will certainly be strange for me, but I can still visit the library anytime (maybe even take some adjunct hours at the reference desk) and will continue to provide administrative leadership for the library. In this new role, I will have the opportunity to meet and work with so many more faculty, staff, and administrators across the campus. I will have the opportunity to learn more about these programs, departments, and services and bring my library experiences as an interdisciplinary academic leader. It’s a real opportunity to impact change, provide leadership, and facilitate community in the best community college environment in the country.

I have much gratitude for the confidence, trust, and respect from the colleagues I’ve worked with over the past nine years at SBCC and look forward to many more years to come.  The position will begin in July.

Graduation Speech at SBCC

By on May 24, 2014

As Academic Senate President, I had the honor of speaking to over 500 graduates at Santa Barbara City College on Friday, May 23, 2014. The following are the words I shared.

On behalf of the Santa Barbara City College faculty, I welcome you. Welcome to our faculty, our staff, our administrators, our board of trustees. Welcome to parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Welcome to partners, husbands, wives, and children. Welcome to our friends. Welcome to our ancestors who can’t be here in physical form, to our spiritual ancestors who have taught us how to live well, to our cultural teachers who have reminded us how to treat each other, and to the land ancestors who have cared for and settled on these lands in the time before us. 

No one of us does anything alone. 

Each person present here today is a part of one another in this moment of celebration. Please take a moment to remember all those people and conditions that have happened to bring us to this moment in time. 

We are all present here today as a community. We are all present here today to honor our 2014 SBCC graduates.

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Fall Beginnings and Time to Breathe

By on September 16, 2012

Students, thousands of them, fill all spaces in the library. Lines form to use computers and textbooks. All library staff are on their feet every moment the library is open to direct and support any need. Students come and go with alacrity, which is a joy to experience, and I smile to our role as a central place on campus. It’s the fall semester and, as I write this letter, we have just completed our third week. Finally there is a calming energy after so much activity. It’s the space between beginning and middle. To add to the huge number of students, we also went live with the WorldShare Management Services platform this semester (eight other California community college campuses are actively migrating, with a few more still in the works). It’s been a very full three weeks for us and I am certain that each of our campus libraries can share a similar story for the fall semester beginnings.

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Using Technology in Management

By on May 4, 2011

Many managers may feel they don’t have the time (or perhaps inclination) to explore and use technology in order to be more efficient. In my experience as a manager, I’ve found a set of tools that put me out in front of the technology pack, provide me with more efficient methods for communication, and demonstrate an engaging and collaborative work environment. Though I happen to be a library manager, there is no reason why these tools couldn’t provide the same results to other types of managers.

Better Communication

No matter your age, it’s important to embrace new communication technologies. In particular, I’ve found text messaging and instant messaging to be highly effective in working with my staff. Most likely your organization has an instant messaging tool. Are you using it? Text messaging is particularly useful if you have a younger staff (under 40) and there are tools such as Group Me that lets you group message. By integrating around Google products such as gVoice, gMail, and gDocs managers have the ability to have a personal database with all the communication and document resources in one place. For example, collaborative work functions very well using Google Docs because it’s an anytime/anywhere solution with built in tracking. Do you post your email address on invoices and other communication from the organization?

In addition to tools that help you communicate and collaborate more effectively, managers should embrace the use of social media to stay informed and stay connected with the profession. The big players, who aren’t going away any time soon, are Facebook and Twitter. Have you taken the time to learn these tools and apply them professionally? In my career, these tools are one of my primary sources of professional development. (more…)

Soil and Rocks. Breathing and Smiling.

By on April 5, 2011

We’ve all been there. The endless lists, multitude of projects, work/family/volunteer seemingly colliding together. Some days we feel like the rocks and soil are simply burying us alive with the anxiety and fear. It is in times like that when breathing and smiling can really save the day, at least in the moment. Even after gaining three hours over the weekend (flying west), I still came to work this week with the awareness of responsibility and tasks.

Being out front, wanting to lead, is something I’ve always done. I can manage many tasks at one time across a wide range of areas – committees, politics, spiritual, home. It seems to be a gift because it comes naturally for me . But the gift of abundance does also must have a balance. Most of the time my life feels in balance, but there comes a time when it feels like the house of cards will fall.

My goal is to present for those around me. This means that “my tasks” sometimes get put aside for the benefit of those who work for me and those who I mentor and support. Because this goal of presence is mine, I do it with joy and awareness. The others in my life, both at home and at work, hold no responsibility for my feeling of imbalance. As a Library Director, I let the day take me with it and there must be space in the calendar to allow for flexibility. As a husband and father, I let the evening take me with it even if the “work” tasks were left incomplete. Though I don’t do this 100%, it is an intentional goal and practice. As Catherine Hakala-Ausperk wrote in Be A Great Boss, “being prepared for permanent whitewater will give you the attitude you need for that day.”

The benefits of being available are immeasurable. There are costs, of course, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the human connection that will have a lasting impact, not completing the report or reading the background material or finalizing that budget. Those things are important too, and they will get done, but I’ve set my priority elsewhere. When imbalance arrives, which it did yesterday, then I can use the tools of my practice to keep me centered. It could mean that I close my office door and focus on checking off a few items on the task list (which I didn’t do yesterday). It could mean staying up a little later or getting up a little earlier. Finding joy in the anxiety and fear is possible. Being present, sharing with someone, writing a blog post, they all contribute to balance.

(Recently I committed to writing 250-words a day, but I missed a couple days. That’s part of the letting go too, so here’s my post now.)

Writing an Introduction for 3k People

By on March 30, 2011

How do you write a 5-minute introduction for an award winning author and scholar for ACRL 2011? To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement, though I’ve done my homework.

I’ve known for several months about this introduction, and tomorrow is the big day to introduce Raj Patel. I read his most recent book, watched some video interviews, read a few book reviews, communicated with him via email, had a conference call with him to discuss themes, and made a few notes here and there. Despite this effort over a period of months it comes down to the night before and I’m actually giving the introduction some form.

I must work better under pressure. In my experience, when it’s real and the times up, then the creativity is released.

I loved the book. I love the themes. I’m a radical with socialist leanings. I’m deeply committed to equality, the environment, reducing consumption, and generosity. As a Buddhist, it’s easier to understand and embrace his solutions. Radical democracy, with full engagement of the population, is what we need and what is being proposed by the author.

Here’s the challenge. He’s speaking (and I’m introducing) in front of 3,000 academic librarians. Certainly a more liberal bunch than the average American but not uniformly so. I’m aware of this potentially more “general” audience and yet perhaps this isn’t necessary? Maybe I let it be what it is without any sugarcoating? After all, a few years ago we had John Waters give the keynote. It’s a librarian audience but the author has something to offer us that can be applied to scholarship and the dissemination of information.

I’m very excited. The introduction is written. I’ve rehearsed and will rehearse again few more times. Now I’d like to find a good iPad teleprompter app to scroll the intro.

Interview on Libraries, Social Media, Mediation

By on November 24, 2010

Thank you to Kate, the marketing intern at Santa Barbara City College, for doing such a great job across campus interviewing people and demonstrating the value of our campus community. I was honored to sit down with her to talk about the Luria Library, social media, and mediation. If you have ten minutes, I hope you take the time to watch the interview.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSbFJ-Ok8Zo

Game Changers for Community Colleges

By on November 4, 2010

I just returned from 2-days at OCLC where thirty community college librarians gathered to discuss the community college library environment. If I walk away from an event, conference, workshop, etc. with a list of action items then I know the activity was worth while – the OCLC sponsored event this week was definitely worth my time because I have a short list to work with now that I’m back.

This invite-only event came together around a series of OCLC-identified game changers for community colleges. They did a pretty good job of identifying themes in order to frame our discussion. As we sat around discussing these themes, a great deal of experience was brought into the room and we stepped in directions beyond the five game changers that were initially presented. The five brought to the table were (1) exploding registrations and student populations, (2) budgets, (3) eBooks, (4) working with faculty, particularly adjunct, and (5) leadership and succession.

The list brought to the table does encompass many of the common themes we are experiencing at the community college level. I found the discussion to be rich, informed, and enlightening. No answers were provided but awareness of these themes is important as we proceed in our libraries. My hope is that others can engage in this type of discussion in the future – perhaps regionally – to help frame our status in the academy.  (more…)

When Ready, the Position Will Appear

By on October 19, 2010

I loved the brilliant blog post by Meredith Farkas over at Information Wants To Be Free. She explores the theme of management, upward mobility and sticking with honesty and candor. It’s important to see our strengths and where we might apply them in our work environment. I’m posting my thoughts here as well as on her blog.

My experience has been that one can customize the director position to be who we are as individuals; to be honest about our style and personality. I wouldn’t want to work for a disingenuous person, and I try to reflect that in my director role. Do I wear slacks and nice shirt? Most of time, but I like to look good. I also try to present myself professionally since I represent the library to many of our constituants. I don’t wear ties – don’t like them! My experience also tells me that when I was ready, the position appeared. For some this occurs quickly, others enjoy lingering in their profession by offering valuable service to their community in non-director positions.

This is good and needed.

I’m in my second Library Director position. In between the two, I worked as a classroom-based professor/reference librarian and as a systems librarian. Those two roles were just what I needed between the two director roles. I can honestly say that I’m a much better director this second time round; I needed more experience. Looking back, I’m not even sure I’d want to have worked for me the first time round but it did give some good lessons for this time.

Though Meredith was reflecting on moving from frontline librarian to director, I’m reading this with reflections of moving in other directions. As a Library Director, I periodically think about what it might be like to work as an non-library academic dean or vice-president. Could I ever leave librarianship?

I’m not ready now, but it’s fun to consider. When I’m ready, the position will appear.