In August 2022, multiple new faculty members with diverse backgrounds were hired at Maryville College. This began raising the question across campus of how these more diverse faculty affect the diversity of Maryville’s campus. Will the population of Maryville College and the community of Maryville see a positive change on campus due to this event?
Upon his presidential inauguration, Dr. Bryan Coker began the long and complicated process of increasing diversity on campus.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) task force is one such result of Coker’s diversity initiative. In the year since its creation, the members have participated in building a process that vets potential hires for their understanding of DEI beyond just basic knowledge.
Coker reviews all potential hires. He stated that if he is, “presented with a list of white men, then there will be questions.”
Dr. Aqualus Gordon, professor of Psychology, is a new hire who has gone through the new and improved system. Gordon attended Wabash College, a small liberal arts college in Indiana, that reminds him of Maryville—so much so that he said stepping on MC soil felt like “coming home.”
In a press conference interview, Coker disclosed that the biggest “challenge” of increasing diversity on campus is diversifying faculty.
Drawing faculty to the area, Coker says, has been discussed as being a difficulty with attracting faculty. He, however, disagrees and says, “we have to be creative in how we recruit and how we set them up for success here.”
Gordon also stated he feels very welcomed by MC, in contrast to previous positions, although holds out on his opinion of the cultural climate of MC until he has been among it longer. He says that the community feels like something he can, “feel steeped in.”
His comments about diversity on campus are that, upon his first tour of the campus, he did not see a lot of diversity within the student population. Now, he loves seeing the true diversity of MC.
As the sole Black male faculty member, he welcomes the role he plays in diversity on campus. He accepts his position as a safe space, “for students of color and, particularly, men doing psych counseling.”
He wants to make sure that these voices are uplifted and takes that responsibility with pride, and fortunately so, because Maryville has historically had troubles with retaining diverse faculty, according to Dr. Kathie Shiba, professor of psychology and Assistant Dean for institutional equity.
Shiba explained that in the past, Maryville College did not have the education that it has now about diversity, equity and inclusion. Maryville has done a better job of understanding diverse perspectives and including diverse voices in all areas of its core. “We have become more cohesive in acknowledging that we as a campus value DEI,” she stated.
MC community welcomes Gordon and other new hires, with hopes that they have a prolonged stay.