Department of Multicultural Life close to hiring dean

Rebecca Edwards

After five months of searching, Macalester has narrowed its pool of candidates for the vacant position of Dean of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) to three.

On March 27, 28 and 29, each finalist for the position visited campus to engage with students, faculty and administration and host an open forum.

The position was formerly occupied by Christopher MacDonald-Dennis, who left the college in September and now works as the Chief Diversity Officer at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Assistant Dean for College Access Sedric McClure has served as Interim Dean this year.

The DML has undergone extensive staff turnover in recent years. Jason Jackson and Tegra Myanna, the director and assistant director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center respectively, were both hired in 2017.

According to McClure, the turnover has given the DML the opportunity to explore new ways of creating a more diverse and inclusive campus community.

“We have this unique opportunity to really think [about] and recalibrate what we’re doing here in the DML, because now about eighty percent of the staff will be new,” McClure said. “We can see what [the new Dean’s] vision will be, in particular, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and then we get the chance to set the tone and move forward.”

McClure is hopeful that whichever candidate is selected will share the department’s interest in focusing more exclusively on productive conversations across campus.

“I really want to take a look at the number of programs and follow the basic premise that less is more, in favor of finding ways to be with one another,” McClure said.

“So, for example, we had Angela Davis come in October, and when you have somebody like that come in, it’s like, woah.”

“Have we had enough time to wrestle and struggle with what somebody like Angela Davis… brings in terms of the multiple meanings and experiences that they set out there for us to chew on? Can we take some time to do that?”

The three finalists for the position are Marjorie Trueblood-Gamble, Director of Diversity at Southern Oregon University; Ka Vang, Director of Impact and Community Engagement at Minnesota Public Radio; and Brandyn Woodard, Director of Intercultural and International Student Services at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

Trueblood-Gamble formerly served as the Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs and Admissions at Kenyon College. She is also a co-founder of Oregon’s Race Equity Coalition.

Vang, prior to working with MPR, served as the Diversity Programs Director at the Office of the Chancellor at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. She has also aided diversity and inclusion efforts at Hamline University.

Woodard has worked with diversity services at Central College in Iowa and spent time with the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan before that.

The decision will be made in the next few weeks.

“Right around the first part of April, we should be getting the final negotiations and offers and counteroffers, and then the announcement will be coming shortly thereafter,” McClure said.

He is hopeful that the new appointment will help Macalester realize its potential for inclusiveness on campus.

“What other time in life will you be in a space where you have the level of diversity you have on a college campus?” McClure asked. “We can find ways to rearrange ourselves, our initiatives and our practices so we can take advantage of that.”