Diversity office moves to Walker building, hosts new programs

by Stephanie Michaud / Beacon Correspondent • September 19, 2013

Silvia Spears, vice president of diversity and inclusion, sits in her new Walker building office
Silvia Spears, vice president of diversity and inclusion, sits in her new Walker building office

Following its move to the Walker Building earlier this month, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will begin a series of new activities and initiatives for students and staff. 

Sylvia Spears, vice president of diversity and inclusion, said she believes that the new location allows the office to work closely with what she calls the heart of Emerson’s intellectual community. The office was previously in the State Transportation Building located at 10 Park Plz.

“We were very fortunate [President M. Lee Pelton] and the Emerson institution was cooperative with the move,” said Spears. “This allows professors, students, and staff to grow together in the civic engagement of diversity and inclusion.”

The cost for the office to move onto campus was very low, both financially and environmentally, according to Spears.

“In keeping with Emerson's sustainability goals, instead of purchasing new office furniture, we were able to repurpose unused office furnishings from other areas of the college,” said Spears.

Changes to course syllabi have also been made this semester. A new diversity portion was added to many of the documents. 

“I encourage faculty to think about ways in which they can enhance the learning environment for students through the implementation of inclusive instructional practices,” said Spears. 

This is one of many steps Spears said she hopes faculty will take to communicate diversity and inclusion values to students.

“I imagine that there are also some faculty who have set aside time in their courses to talk about how they can develop an inclusive classroom environment,” she said.

Claire Kerr, a junior journalism major, said she noticed the update to her syllabi.

“I am definitely in favor of the change,” said Kerr. “Diversity is something that people sometimes take for granted and it is important to be aware that it is present on our campus and in Boston.”

Students and staff can also attend the Lunch and Learn series, a program funded by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, according to Spears.

Lunch and Learn will invite faculty and students to enjoy a free light lunch together and discuss diversity and inclusion topics, said Spears. Topics will range from an introduction to inclusion at earlier meetings, to bias incidents about culture later in the series, according to Spears.

Dates for the series will be released next month, said Spears. 

A library focused on diversity and inclusion topics, located in the new office, will open on campus soon, said Spears.

“We bought all these wonderful books,” said Spears. “We are just waiting for all the shelves to come in so we get the library up and running.”

Andy Pham, a freshman journalism major, said he thinks the library seems like a good idea.

“I don’t know how often I will go to the library, but I’d definitely be willing to check it out when it opens up,” said Pham.  “I would probably go straight there for resources if I needed something on diversity for a class.”

Students will be able to check out books, including “The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why” by Jabari Asim, an Emerson professor, and “The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation” by Doris Fleischer and Frieda Zames. An online catalog of the books will also be available to the students and faculty.

The office facility is available for students to work in, and Spears said she encourages students to stop by to just talk or seek assistance with civic engagement projects.

“Emerson is far ahead of many other colleges,” said Spears. “The college is warm welcoming and an accepting community of difference. We are very fortunate to be working with such talented students and staff.”