On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 8, students gathered in the Harmon Room of the DeWitt Wallace Library for the second Cornerstone Forum of the semester – featuring new Dean of Multicultural Life (DML) Marjorie Trueblood.
Trueblood began by describing the responsibilities associated with her position, which include supervising five staff members who are split between the Lealtad-Suzuki Center and the Center for Access, Retention, and Success (CARS).
“I see my role as being an administrator [who] supports students but can be a go-between for students with upper administration and or faculty,” Trueblood said. “I have a strong partnership with [Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship] Donna Maeda, and we both focus on how we further diversity [and] inclusion efforts across the campus together.”
Trueblood started at Macalester this year. So far, much of her time has been spent formulating the college’s response to the four separate instances of hate markings and speech found on campus.
Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Trueblood served as Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Southern Oregon University – where she was engaged in similar work.
There, much as she has done here this year, she helped create a Bias Response Team set up to support students and respond directly to incidents of hate.
“Now that I’m here, I’m hoping to get more clarity for what [Macalester’s] processing policy might be,” Trueblood said. “While we have had people come together here at Mac to respond to incidents of bias, we are trying to formalize that process a bit more.”
In her role thus far, Trueblood has met with a number of students to discuss incidents of bias and how best the institution should respond to them.
“Lately what I’ve been hearing is that students are really tired, and they’re taking on many different projects, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to do it all by themselves, ” she said. “The only thing is, we can’t help if we don’t know what the issues are.”
Trueblood also worked extensively in planning the new diversity and inclusion trainings for faculty, staff and students that are being led by Dr. Jamie Washington.
Washington is the President and founder of Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Washington signed a one-year contract with Macalester in early fall 2018 and has been to campus several different times this semester.
Trueblood was first introduced to Washington’s work while in college at Earlham College.
“Reading his work caused me to think about when do you call out someone,” Trueblood said, “and when do you call in people to have an intentional discussion?”
One faculty diversity and inclusion training was held during the Fall Academic Issues Retreat (FAIR), in September. The retreat’s title was Transforming Macalester, Transforming Ourselves: Strategies for Creating Equitable Learning Environments, and over 115 faculty members from every academic department were in attendance.
“[The trainings] have been really interesting. Faculty like to pride themselves on being expert[s] in the classroom and in the real word, so it’s hard for them to come into a space and be vulnerable,” Trueblood said. “It’s hard for them to struggle with the fact that there’s no silver bullet, and there’s no cheat sheet to show how to build real human connection with students.”
“It really is about trying to develop a relationship with a student,” she continued, “how you do that, how you are cognizant of how you identify and how those things shape your own perceptions and the way that you treat people.”
In addition to bias response and diversity training, Trueblood mentioned that she wants to expand the DML’s role in facilitating civic engagement.
“We’re starting to think about how we can be more involved in supporting student activism, and even student protests, because [they’re] also a form of engagement,” she said.
Trueblood concluded the event with a comment on the mission of her department at large for the students in the audience to reflect on.
“While the DML is here to think about social justice education and to think about how to support minoritized folks,” she said, “it’s also to think about how to prepare all of our students to be effective leaders once they leave this place.”
“There should be some level of intercultural competence,” she continued. “If we’re not doing that, then we’re doing all of you a disservice as we graduate all of you into an increasingly diverse society here in the United States, if not the world.”