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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Q&A with associate provost for inclusion, equity and diversity


Nicole Stokes, Ph.D., has been appointed as the inaugural associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion. Stokes will fill the chief diversity officer position that has been vacant since June 2018 when Monica Nixon, Ed.D., former assistant provost for inclusion and diversity, left the university. Stokes currently serves as associate vice president for institutional effectiveness and diversity at Holy Family University in Philadelphia and will start at St. Joe’s on Feb. 10.

The Hawk asked Stokes about her vision for diversity, equity and inclusion on Hawk Hill via email.

What diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives will be your first priority when you arrive on campus? 

I have read several documents such as the climate survey and the underrepresented student reports as part of the search process and that provided many insights as a starting place. Based on some of the information from these documents, I would like to begin by asking students, faculty and staff about their perceptions about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to date and working with all to develop a common language for articulating this work moving forward.

In your presentation to St. Joe’s community members, you talked about your experience in university housing and RA training. First-year residence halls have been the setting of at least four reported racial bias incidents at St. Joe’s since fall 2018. How can you help the Office of Residence Life better deal with and try to eliminate these issues? 

In my current position and in my past role, I worked very closely with student engagement and residential life to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusive practices into the training of student leaders. My past approach to this training focused on building community among all students on campus while also increasing awareness of implicit bias. I have found this approach to be effective in reducing prejudice while building trust among all residents living on campus.

How do you plan to encourage all students to participate in conversations of inclusion and diversity?

In my campus presentation, I talked about how diversity, equity and inclusion work has to be a community lift, meaning that all stakeholders have a part in building an inclusive and equitable campus environment. The work cannot rest solely with the underrepresented students on campus or with me.

A scaffolded approach has been proven to be effective in motivating all members of our community to participate and buy-in. This scaffolded approach can include exposure to DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] in the academic and co-curricular experience. For faculty, staff and administrators, this approach can include orientations and continuous professional development opportunities. For the campus community (broadly) it can mean articulating a common language and ideology for how diversity, equity and inclusion is lived and experienced at SJU in events that already occur on campus. Ultimately, DEI can and should be part of the DNA and regular business of Saint Joseph’s University.

How will you support other marginalized groups on campus like the LGBTQIA+ community, international students, first generation students, commuters, etc.?

In my current role, I work closely with the six student clubs and organizations who work toward diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. These include the Student Government Association Diversity Representative, Fusion Multicultural Club, SPECTRUM LGBTQIA Alliance, IDEA DisAbility Awareness Club, Diversity Alumni Association Board, and Athletics and Inclusion Club. All of these organizations have invited me to work with them on invited speakers to campus and to advise on opportunities to collaborate on diversity and inclusion student programming. I am looking forward to building similar relationships with the student organizations on campus that advocate and represent similar populations within the SJU community.

What are you expecting of students, faculty, staff and administration in supporting you in your work here? 

I am looking forward to working with our students, faculty, staff and administration to support my leadership and our work in advancing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion at Saint Joseph’s University. I recognize the importance of this work and I felt the overwhelming support and enthusiasm for the role during the search process and the campus visit. I am thrilled and eager to get started on this work. Diversity, equity and inclusion work, when done effectively and with care, requires trust building. I hope that the SJU community will invest the time and patience needed to build trust and to do this work in impactful and sustainable ways.

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