New Program Aims to Further Diversify Campus

By: Chantal Richards

Diversity is a like an iceberg. Terms such as race, color, size, and gender hover on the surface while factors such as socioeconomic status, childhood experiences, and multiculturalism lie underneath. The term diversity is widely used, but what exactly does it describe?

Chico State's Office of Diversity and Inclusion has developed a Diversity Certificate Program that is designed to provide faculty and staff with the tools to see the whole iceberg.

Diversity Certificate Program
Faculty participating in Diversity Certificate Program.
Currently, the program serves 40 staff and faculty members. They meet once a month for six months to discuss in detail diversity concerns, which have included the preachers and protesters who come to campus, teaching students to learn about the similarities and differences among one another, and having an open mind while incorporating different diversity definitions.

The program also has guest speakers talk about diversity issues and the ways in which the term “diversity” is defined.

Maris Thompson, an assistant professor of education in the Chico State School of Education who researches and teaches about diversity, joined the program for the advocacy aspect.

“Diversity is very complex,” said Thompson. “The starting point for me was all the different ways that people differ from one another and the way those differences may be perceived by others and perceived by ourselves. It really encompasses this respect for difference, inclusion of difference, and for me really, advocating for an end to discrimination.”

Thompson said that each session is dedicated to a different module of diversity, and the advocacy piece has been really rich. So far, the program presentations have examined age, sexual orientation, the gender spectrum, internationalization, race, socioeconomics, size diversity, and steps to further diversify the campus.

"Each of the sessions have helped me deepen my thinking on those dimensions of diversity," said Thompson. "But it's not only in the presentations, but the conversations among faculty and staff in the workshop where we're really able to think about applying the ideas in different contexts, and also bridging and working together to apply the ideas."

Dylan Saake works in Human Resources as the director of Labor Relations and Compliance. He assists people who are victims of discrimination, and it is his duty to investigate and make recommendations to ensure it does not happen again. He defines diversity as people who are different from himself.

"The biggest positive [to the program] is there is this amazing group of individuals who are talking and doing what they can to promote diversity and educate the campus," said Saake. "They make a real commitment to seeing the campus be a good representation of everyone who is interested in being here from whatever diverse backgrounds they may be."

Having people from diverse backgrounds share their experiences and network with those in the program is beneficial, Saake said. The challenge is that there is always more work to be done to make everyone feel welcome.

"We often limit diversity to what we view as a protected class, whether it is race or religion or various things," said Saake. "But really, it's about what's different from you, whether it is economic or social class. Diversity covers all those things."

For Sharleen Krater, who works for Associated Students Government Affairs, diversity is everything you can see and everything you don’t see. Krater has worked on campus for seven years.

“Even before I started the Diversity Certificate Program, my idea of diversity included things you can’t always see such as social and economic status, somebody who is maybe an abuse survivor, somebody who is one race like American Indian but maybe doesn’t look American Indian,” said Krater.

Krater joined the program to learn about the diversity issues on campus and to address the one she sees most in her position on campus.

“There’s such an opportunity to train and educate staff,” said Krater. “One [example] is no matter where we work, part of our job is to not assume that just because we have a student, where maybe his family comes from Yuba City, and their name sounds like they’re an international student, don’t assume that they’re not an American citizen.”

All the participants agree that the Diversity Certificate Program is an amazing experience and plan to celebrate their graduation from the program at noon on May 7 at Selvester’s Café-by-the-Creek.

How to Get Involved:

If you are interested in participating in the program, contact Tray Robinson or the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at 530-898-4764 or