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Diversity and Inclusivity: The Fine Line

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New Addition to the Team: Evan Richard

Gilmour Academy’s niche grade for diversity could be a C+. To counter this, Gilmour has recently hired Mr. Evan Richard, the new Director of Diversity and Inclusion. His position is meant to foster reform in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion. He started his position on Monday, September 16.

Mr. Richard majored in sociology pre-law, having a bachelor of arts and sciences degree from Ohio University. He served as a human resources coordinator with the Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) through the Office of Diversity and inclusion. Upon graduating, Mr. Richard created a program aimed at promoting inclusiveness and training in the areas of diversity, cultural awareness, and sensitivity there as well.

Mr. Richard also worked with the Black American Council, Hispanic Council, the Safe Zone Alliance and with women transitioning back into the workforce. He addressed Title IX as it relates to sexual awareness and sexual harassment, coordinated a quarterly Diversity Speaker Series, and entered Syracuse University’s College of Law to pursue a law degree.

At Gilmour, Mr. Richard intends to influence this community with his expertise. His position calls for providing strategic guidance in leading Gilmour closer to diversity and inclusion overall. His primary goal is to increase Gilmour’s cultural competency. Mr. Richard will be working closely with students, faculty, staff, community partners that support students from culturally diverse and underrepresented communities, and with Ms. Kris Rodgers, Director of Human Resources. 

Experiences Bring About Reform

“Coming to [Gilmour for high school] for me was a lot, especially because I’m not Catholic, so I was always worried about how I’d fit in in that respect. I was worried and nervous about coming here. My approach during my first three years reflected that. I had no social interactions with anyone. I’d come to school and leave. Once basketball season started, that was pretty much the most social proximity anyone had to me.” -Mr. Evan Richard   

Mr. Richard’s own personal battles with inclusivity at Gilmour motivated him to circle back and personally aid in fostering inclusivity and diversity as one unit. At Ohio University, he stopped playing basketball after his third year. Without sports, he was forced to figure out who ‘Evan Richard’ was without athletics.

As Mr. Richard put it, he became vulnerable to “see if [he] had leadership abilities, or even interests in corporate fields or higher education, [he] was compelled to understand [himself].” With this, he discovered a passion for “understanding people and who they were, not just what they may represent in terms of being an athlete, a journalist and so forth, but for what sparked their interests, and what made them curious about such interests.”

Working at Tri-C gave Mr. Richard his first opportunity to bring his passion for understanding people into a workspace. While there, he had no idea he would turn this work, directing diversity and inclusion, into a career. It “just worked out that way.” Through self-introspection, it became evident his general disposition with people was spearheaded by “leading with love and giving everyone a fair chance to present who they are” and not letting his natural biases envelop him.

This sign appears at Mr. Richard’s office and invites all visitors to feel welcomed.

The Mission

“One of the biggest things for me is to shift the narrative around Gilmour. It’s taking that narrative and owning any down parts of it while encouraging families both here and families to come, that Gilmour is an inclusive community and that we’re building and fostering a place that promotes inclusivity, a place that values our diverse groups. More specifically, to show prospective parents that may or may not know about Gilmour, or may have heard something that is not as favorable as we would like. That Gilmour is worth getting to know and experience.” -Mr. Evan Richard  

He wants to transform the dual reality of diversity and inclusion beyond a statistical standpoint. Truthfully, he wants to properly articulate the shared human experience that students, faculty, and staff can relate to.

“Everyone has a plight that they have to deal with at some point in life whether they want to or not, we all can relate in that sense. I want to remind Gilmour that I intend on using my experiences here and my demonstrations, but also different programming that we’ll bring along with sensitivity and competency training from both a professional and personal standpoint from faculty, staff, as well as students to elevate inclusivity and diversity” as one living, breathing unit.

Mr. Richard’s quest lies in the pursuit of “really creating an environment where there’s a true spirit of inclusivity. Inclusivity is not just a word we’re saying as a theme of one of the charisms, I want it to truly be the belief here from a foundational standpoint.”

The Tie: Diversity and Inclusion 

“Decisions. Diversity is just a population, inclusivity is how you use that population to promote a better understanding of each group. That is a decision. Your decision to be better than whatever stereotype is labeled against you or whatever stigma is attached to you, means the most.” -Mr. Evan Richard

“I believe that our decisions to nurture unity are the point that ties us together, that ties the two words together.” -Mr. Evan Richard 

Diversity and inclusion should be symbiotic. Unfortunately, most times they are not. This is a result of everyday decisions. Facilities and people “want diversity but not inclusion, they want inclusive practices yet do not have diverse populations to implement them.” Mr. Richard came to Gilmour to transfigure everyday reality for the benefit of the community. He desires to diversify the population the best way possible, along with staying true with the idea of bringing the best and brightest students and faculty members, but most importantly, “of having the most sensitive and competent members at the core of Gilmour.”

Repairing Gaps and Promoting Cultural Competency

Mr. Evan Richard welcomes all students to visit with him in his new office located in the Administrative wing.

As a whole, every community needs guidance when repairing gaps that divide the population. Having diversity and being competent in how to be inclusive are two separate ideas. Mr. Richard said, “Diversity relates to demographics and sociology, but to successfully present diversity, there is a fundamental need to express inclusiveness.”

This year will serve as a trial run for what needs to be mended in the dimensions of diversity and inclusion. As time progresses and hypothetical ideas are filtered and followed through, resolutions will solidify and future students and staff can be witness to change, to growth, and to expansive acceptance and competency. 

At the end of the day, we should want to be surrounded by amiable people. To enjoy being around others. Working and studying alongside people we feel ignored or repressed by only divides us. Ultimately, our community should strive to reflect our mission statement now, and set a foundation for the future in the hands of inclusion and diversity.

Let our community be a place that looks beyond religious affiliations, beyond cultural backgrounds. Let us delve into the rawness of humanity and see value in a person for simply being human. Let us respect human dignity and support everyone’s individuality and interconnectedness. The hope and strife lie in learning to properly care for all those who are a part of the Gilmour family.

To close, take away one powerful piece of advice that Mr. Richard esteems and expects: “Lead with love.” 

10-21-19 12:02 P.M. UPDATE: Featured image replaced to increase clarity.

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Nicolle Christine Figueroa is a young woman with a bold Hispanic character, a vivacious spirit and a voice fueled by a fervent attitude. She serves as a leader for SADD and Diversity Club and is both a poet and dancer. Coming from a family and culture that cultivates passionate outspoken personalities, Nicolle strives to express herself. Born and raised in Ohio, she's learned to blend American and Hispanic cultures for a unique perspective of the immense world around her.