On Aug. 28, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) emailed the student body with updates for the 2023-24 academic year and an expanded strategic plan. ODEI begins a new chapter with three main priorities: research and application of wellness and trauma-informed education, stronger collaborations between campus departments and regular assessments of DEI events, programs and initiatives. ODEI also announced modifications to the Student Success Fund (SSF), which now includes stricter restrictions on how funding is allocated in order to increase support for a wider range of students.
SSF was established in the 2016-17 academic year. According to Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lynn Hampton, it originated from an anonymous donation from an alumnus who hoped to provide funding for students experiencing financial difficulties on campus. In the past, SSF has provided funding for essentials such as fresh food, winter clothing and travel visa fees.
The SSF budget increased in the 2022-23 academic year from $10,000 to $50,000, with the intention to widen the distribution of resources and better assist the achievements of Kenyon’s growing population. For this academic year, ODEI has announced that certain resources previously accessible through SSF will now have a financial limit per student. Following these new limitations, funds for winter clothing beyond the supplies found at the Source are now capped at $150, emergency travel at $800 and medical support at $500. Necessities such as toiletries, food and technology are no longer supported through SSF and instead are available through other resources on campus like the Source or Chalmers Library.
Beyond providing monetary aid to students, ODEI strives to support student needs through partnerships across the College’s departments and affinity groups. ODEI’s goals for the year include providing resources to the greatest number of students with weekly tabling in Peirce Dining Hall, campus-wide events and potential partnerships with campus resource centers on campus such as Student Accessibility and Support Services.
“The goal of ODEI is to reach the larger campus community who may not also necessarily have taken advantage of those resources or know about those resources or just haven’t connected with use because of those affinity spaces,” Hampton said.
One of the lenses through which ODEI will focus this year is trauma-informed education, a growing field in higher education and focal point for student support at Kenyon. Collaboration is also at the forefront of ODEI’s mission, and with three-fifths of its staff new to the Hill, this mandate has been an intentional focus for understanding how to best support all members of the Kenyon community. “We definitely want to increase our collaborations especially within this idea [of trauma-informed education]… to talk about what this looks like in a whole student’s life. This includes involving faculty as well,” Administrative Assistant to the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Kennedey Bell said.
ODEI will also seek to support the needs of neurodivergent students in and out of the classroom. According to Hampton, ODEI is continually working to build upon the relationships between departments and foster the connection between student and academic affairs. “We’re actively working to amplify the collaboration piece… particularly as it relates to the connection between student affairs and academic affairs,” Hampton said.
ODEI’s efforts to broaden its support through engaging in community conversations and providing vital support for diversity on campus follow on the heels of Decatur’s vision for an inclusive, equitable and diverse community.