misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Santa Barbara City College

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.

Getting to Santa Barbara during 2018 Mudslides

By on January 15, 2018

We begin the second week with the 101 freeway closed in Montecito due to flood and mudslides. It’s an awful situation. Not for me particularly, but for the people living in the community.

Last week I worked from home in Ojai, but this week I needed to be in Santa Barbara. The trip from Ojai usually takes about an hour but now the options are limited and long. We have Amtrak, but they’ve been running an hour or two late all week and at maximum capacity. The boats that usually do whale watching have switched to commuter boats, but I’m not to keen on spending 120-minutes at sea each day. The last choice is to drive around.

Today I made that long journey around. I figured in a typical week I spend 10-12 hours on the road so the 4.5 hour drive (one-way) seemed reasonable.

Leaving at 3:30am, only 15-minutes earlier than my normal wake-Up time, I was able to be at work by 8am. The traffic was heavy, but not unbearable. The hardest portion was definitely the 100-miles of two-lanes on highway 166. Even at 5am, it was pretty much one long row of cars and semis. We did maintain 45-55mph through all that. The other portions, highway 126, I-5, and southbound 101 from Santa Maria we’re all pretty typical traffic.

I’m not sure if I’ll do the drive next week, even if the freeway remains closed, but I’m here at Santa Barbara City College now preparing for the spring semester. Next week we’ll have an additional 1500 students trying to get from the other side of Montecito to campus. Not to mention all the other 100,000 vehicles that traverse this route on a daily basis.

I wish CalTrans good luck getting the water, mud, and debris off the freeway. And healing for the Montecito community.

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.

The First Week with OCLC’s WorldShare Management

By on September 3, 2012

The power was completely out for half the campus on the first day of the fall semester at Santa Barbara City College. The library, already a crowded place, was even more crowded than usual. We experienced our continued record capacity with over 5,000 students each of the first three days. The Luria Library also went live with our new library system from OCLC – WorldShare Management Services (WMS). How did the first week go with the new system? What did we learn? (more…)

A Cultivated-Taste for Failure and Chaos

By on March 27, 2008

I don’ t normally read the Harvard Business Review, but a colleague at work brought the current issue to my attention because the cover said Reading Google’s Mind, and she knew of my fascination with innovation and with Google. The actual article is called Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine; it’s a pretty good read and fits in well with some of the ideas I’ve been exploring lately.

In the article, the model we might follow was called A Cultivated-Taste for Failure and Chaos. I love it!

Google's Innovation Ecosystem

A few weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to the marketing team of Laurel Springs School in Ojai, California because of some of the things we’ve been trying out in our library at Santa Barbara City College. I’ve taken some ideas from Google, and other successful companies, by trying to be nimble, exciting, and innovative. Of course, a library is a little different from a company but we can certainly take some queues from business. (more…)