Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to life at Abington, enriching your experiences inside and outside the classroom.
By: Regina Broscius
Penn State Abington is the most diverse campus within the University and the only majority minority campus. Meet some of the people who help make it work.
Walls of windows and French doors nearly dissolve the barrier between indoors and out. The adjoining porch sits along one of Abington's busiest paths.
The open design and high visibility location of the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) is intentional.
With the support of Chancellor Damian J. Fernandez, the next step in DEI's evolution played out recently. It moved to the first floor of the Lares Union Building, added staff, and augmented its resources and goals.
Jiten Patel said the retreat was the rewarding experience he has had at Penn State Abington.
Credit: Jim Hopf
"There are no more walls at Abington. Anyone is welcome here." Jose Rodriguez, director, Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Rodriguez leads the team with 22 years at Abington, followed by seven-year veteran John Nguyen who works primarily in a counseling role while facilitating trainings. Newcomer Anyi Ye serves as the international student advocate/advisor.
The staff works to bridge cultural disparities that could affect learning outcomes.
For example, consider how a subject — say, American history — is taught in a different culture. A student's essays and responses in class are based on interpretations of events they learned elsewhere.
"The Abington professor may assume something negative or think the student didn't respond appropriately or understand the assignment," Rodriguez said.
This is where Anyi steps in to work with and train faculty to interpret cultural context with international students.
With a growing international presence on campus, student researchers decided to investigate engagement between American students and their counterparts.
Credit: Regina Broscius
DEI connects with the college as whole, too. Best practices start with learning to pronounce a person's name correctly whether in class, the cafeteria, or in a club meeting. Many names reflect religious or family significance so knowing a person’s given name is important for community.
"There's a difference between assimilating and changing your identity, and a difference between a nickname and not changing your self-identity." Jose Rodriguez
Other standards include teaching people to pause and speak slowly so students can process the conversation and take good notes.
DEI staff manage events and trainings and essentially doing anything and everything they can to achieve their mission including
Staging coffee hours on the patio adjoining their office, welcoming everyone for late day drink and conversation.
Requesting outdoor curtains so Muslim students may pray in privacy if they choose to use the porch.
Scheduling a variety of personal development options such as the diversity leadership retreat.
"Being conscious of the little things is a big thing." Jose Rodriguez.
As they continue to make a positive impact and expand their reach, Rodriguez and his staff are enjoying the fishbowl atmosphere of their new space.
"Being more visible helps us build more connections," he said. "This space helps us weave it all together."
Students enjoying the outdoor ice cream social
Credit: Maria Narodetsky
The Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Abington
The Penn State Abington Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion was selected so its mission is crystal clear:
Diversity: To make people aware of their multicultural selves and support their interaction with the greater community.
Equity: To keep people mindful of their power and privilege and use it for positive change.
Inclusion: To remain mindful that we still have to make strides so we reflect the actual community.
"All of our programs are focused on one of these areas," Jose Rodriguez, director of the office, said. "Nothing more, nothing less."
Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 18 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of our 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. A state-of-the-art residence hall will open in August 2017.