Bill Woodson, Ph.D.
Bill Woodson, Ph.D.

By Bill Woodson, Ph.D.

How can we, individually and collectively, work toward creating a more diverse and equitable future here at New College? It’s a big question, but it’s one that informs everything my team and I do on campus.

And, at a time when we are all navigating the challenges of a difficult year (as well as the challenge of crafting and executing an aggressive vision with an all-new team), I wanted to take a moment to recognize the incredible work my colleagues are doing in the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence (OOIE).

What does the OOIE do for New College (and for the community)?

The name of our office reflects the dual charter that I hold as dean of outreach and chief diversity officer. At a socially conscious and dynamic institution like New College, the synergy between community outreach and diversity, equity and inclusion come naturally. As a small liberal arts institution with a big vision, New College knows how to maximize its impact, even with modest resources.

Through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New College and the Cross College Alliance in the Community Grant (often referred to as Mellon II) and the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation Grant, we have secured strategic (and, some would say, critical) support for New College while extending the reach and impact of our office. Totaling $1.25 million, these grants have provided valuable private foundation dollars to fuel institutional priorities. 

Mellon II has provided support for the Sarasota-Manatee Arts & Humanities (SMAH) Internship Program, created by the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) staff (Director Dwayne Peterson and Assistant Director Maddie Tympanick); the CARES Act-powered Multicultural Action Team led by Dr. Lisa Merritt; Professor Queen Zabriskie’s Black History Month; the “Visions of the Black Experience” film series partnership with the Sarasota Film Festival; local community historian Vickie Oldham’s “Newtown Alive”; Booker High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Program; Professor Nick Clarkson’s Trans-Cultural Production project; and the Urbanite Theatre. And these are just the completed projects.

Under the program leadership of OOIE Community Outreach Director Stacey Campo, the list of projects in the pipeline is even longer. And, with her addition to the team this past August, our vision for the future has grown more expansive and strategic.

The Barancik Foundation Grant—a $500,000, four-year grant award received in March 2020—provides scholarships for 13 Barancik Scholars. But that’s not all. The Barancik Grant has enabled New College to launch a comprehensive financial literacy initiative, and to hire Ceci Linton as New College’s first financial literacy specialist.

Ceci, who joined us this past November, is doing amazing work—creating and sustaining programming (including co-curricular leadership development and financial literacy programming for our Barancik Scholars), as well as offering one-on-one counseling for all students. She is collaborating with student clubs, and working with Financial Aid, Student Affairs and the Provost’s Office, crafting strategies to help all New College students better navigate the financial stress of college and acquire life skills. Her efforts will ultimately make a meaningful impact on student retention.

The Barancik Grant is an excellent example of an internal partnership as well (Maneesha Lal, who serves dual appointments in the New College Foundation and the Provost’s Office, co-authored the $500,000 Barancik Foundation Grant).

A $15,000 Community Foundation grant award was the result of a multifaceted external partnership play. The grant proposal, which supported the “Visions” film series, was an OOIE collaboration with Sarasota Film Festival, the Multicultural Health Institute and the Boxser Diversity Initiative. The Community Foundation award unlocked incremental funding from the Barancik Foundation and the New College Foundation, and funded a $12,000 donation to Booker High School’s Visual and Performing Arts program. Talk about partnership!

If funded, a new $30,000 Community Foundation grant proposal (currently in review), authored by Assistant Vice President for Academic Administration Kimberly Grainger, will provide seed funding to launch a new campus-based policy center. This center will position New College to increase its capacity to attract private, state and federal funds; influence regional policies; and address local needs—from food security to workforce readiness to higher education access.

Kim was also responsible for penning a successful, peer-reviewed conference presentation proposal for this year’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (an annual event organized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, better known as NASPA).

Our presentation, entitled Promoting Civic Discourse Using a Campus Climate Podcast, will highlight the Making a Better [New] podcast. The podcast—a project created by the Committee on Campus Climate and Culture (4C)—was created to give less-frequently-heard community members a voice, while modeling respectful dialogue and engaging challenging topics of campus climate and culture. Shout-out to current and former 4C committee members Duane Khan, Joey Daniel and Steven Keshishian for their co-development of the podcast concept and their service as show hosts.

Education partnerships are an important focus

Building bridges with local and regional education partners has been a critical focus of the OOIE. The New College Guaranteed Admission Program—an initiative co-developed with Sonia Wu in Admissions and piloted with Booker High School last year—has been expanded to include six local high schools this admissions cycle.

We have also collaborated with Admissions to strengthen relationships with three community colleges: State College of Florida, Valencia College and Hillsborough Community College. We have called on their campuses and hosted visits on ours, developed new articulation agreements, and explored other strategies for increasing New College’s profile among their students.

OOIE partnered with the Admissions team and our faculty to host the superintendents of Manatee and Sarasota counties on our campus. And the implementation of the Barancik Scholarship, under the umbrella of the Access Leadership Initiative, has involved extensive collaboration with Admissions and the Financial Aid office (Sonia Wu and Kim McCabe have been amazing partners).

There have been countless other New College staff and faculty who have supported the OOIE mission. For example, Professors Queen Zabriskie and Mark Dancigers partnered with the OOIE and Booker High School staff to create an Independent Study Project (ISP) called Cinema and Social Justice.

Professor Kathleen Casto has provided terrific survey development, analysis and data visualization expertise to campus police reform efforts. A partnership with Associate Vice President of Human Resources Loretta Shields and human resources trainer Rosanne Cohen was also essential to the execution of last year’s Inclusive Campus Climate workshops. I can’t forget Shelley Wilbur, who supported me for 18 months until the wonderfully talented Mike Jones joined us in October.

Sustaining momentum

As we look toward the future—ultimately building our office into a full five-person team—how will the OOIE maintain its momentum with continued community collaboration?

For one, we are grateful for the support of the Initiative on Diversity and Equity in Academics (IDEA) and its co-directors, Professors Queen Zabriskie and Sarah Hernandez. They have contributed to the New College diversity, equity and inclusion mission with their “Building Trust, Setting the Environment” workshop series. IDEA has also taken a leadership role in the development of an updated New College Diversity Values statement.

Future opportunities for collaboration will continue to present themselves, including the identification of internal and external expertise to support our next campus climate survey.

It is only with the continued support of the entire community that the OOIE can guide our campus to realize our shared vision of a more inclusive, Better New.

Bill Woodson, Ph.D., is the dean of outreach and chief diversity officer at New College.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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