Section: News

Alumni Council discusses anti-racism and engagement

On Feb. 19, the Kenyon College Alumni Council met to discuss important issues, including the alumni career network and anti-racism efforts. The discussions were led by Associate Vice President for Alumni & Parent Engagement & Annual Giving Shawn Dailey, Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ted Mason and Ted Samuel ’05, respectively. 

Dailey began by presenting a survey from this fall on potential alumni interest in engaging with the College. According to the survey, 50% of responding alumni expressed willingness to offer internship opportunities and nearly 80% of the alumni are willing to provide professional mentorship to current students. 

In reality, however, the percentage of alumni offering internship opportunities to students is well below 50%. “There is a significant number of alumni who are unengaged,” Dailey said.

To account for this lack of engagement, Dailey believes that the Alumni and Parent Engagement and Annual Giving Office should set up a strong alumni career program as a platform for alumni engagement. He cited similar initiatives from the College of the Holy Cross and Smith College as promising examples for Kenyon’s alumni career development and engagement, such as developing podcasts on alumni stories and recruiting career coaches.

Shifting gears, Mason introduced the College’s continued anti-racism efforts, based on the initiative put forward by President Sean Decatur last summer.   

Mason noted that the Board of Trustees is working towards being an anti-racist organization, such as by attending training in New York City on topics like the neuroscience of racism as well as holding internal discussions on bias.

In addition, the College has held a variety of workshops since last summer and hosted training specifically for anti-racism within the campus community. In cooperation with Dr. Tanya Williams — a social justice educator with 25 years of experience working at schools like Harvard University Law School and New York University — the College set up more than 25 specific, three-hour training sessions for faculty, staff and students on anti-racism. Additionally, the Kenyon Equity Institute and the Center for Innovative Pedagogy worked with other projects like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence Program, which focuses on inclusivity for groups who are underrepresented in science. 

According to Mason, the College is also planning on utilizing Kenyon’s Crossroads group — which is composed of faculty members specializing in African diaspora studies — to provide academic resources for future faculty development and research. 

In follow-up discussions, members of the Alumni Council also suggested that those efforts could be linked back to alumni career development by engaging with alumni of color specifically. 

Samuel then took up the lead by talking about his focus on the Alumni of Color Task Force. According to Samuel, there is currently a core group of alumni of color actively engaging with the College in volunteer work. However, Samuel said that this group has encountered difficulties with engaging other alumni of color. “The question is, how do we expand that?” Samuel asked.  

Samuel expressed the wish to increase engagement among Hispanic and multiracial alumni through broadening the reach of communication networks. He also suggested featuring alumni of color in future career development programming to increase engagement. He emphasized the importance of having conversations about the lived experiences of students and alumni of color on campus. 

“A lot of folks might assume that the struggles that they faced in 2005, or 1995, might be the exact same things that students are going through now. And it’s a different world … That’s not to say that there aren’t other really big hurdles for them. But I think that that kind of communication to what student life is really like and what the College is actually doing could be helpful,” Samuel said.

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