New DML staff members push for “Radical Joy” during a turbulent semester


Director of Diversity Education, Leadership and Inclusion Hana Dinku. Photo courtesy of Dinku.

Ada Bruno and Malcolm Cooke

This August, Hana Dinku and TK Morton began their positions at the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) as Director and Assistant Director of Diversity Education, Leadership and Inclusion with a virtual student worker retreat. The retreat’s theme: “Radical Joy.”

“We’re in a space right now that doesn’t invite joy,” Dinku said, “so what’s radical about it is to maintain who we are and our gratitude for life.” 

The new positions are slightly reworked from the previous position of Director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center (LSC) and are being filled due to the departures of former LSC Director Jason Jackson last fall, and of Assistant Director of the LSC Tegra Myanna last March.

Although the DML changed the positions’ names, most of the responsibilities have stayed the same.

“They’re very very similar to the last positions,” Dean of Multicultural Life Marjorie Trueblood said.

The name change was intended to avoid confusion about the different sections of the DML, and not about changing or abandoning programs.

“Part of the reasons for a name change is because the LSC is a part of the DML which is a part of Kagin Commons” Trueblood said, “we had a center within a department within a larger space, so there was some confusion.

My hope is that we can still find some creative ways to still uplift Catherine Lealtad’s name and Esther Suzuki’s name… so that people can get a sense of who they were and how important their legacies are,” Trueblood continued.

Some of the minor differences involve sharing the responsibility of supporting student Identity Collectives between Director and Assistant Director, so that the responsibility does not solely fall on the shoulders of Assistant Director. Trueblood said that, in the past, this proved to be a workload too heavy for one person.

“[We are] really trying to figure out how we could provide more manageable workloads for folks,” Trueblood said.

This more balanced distribution of labor also includes an increased emphasis on mentorship positions held by students who work in the DML. Instead of student workers in the DML focusing solely on programming, they are also responsible for mentoring other students. Providing professional support to these student workers is part of the responsibility of the new Director and Assistant Director positions, as well as other DML staff like Asst. Dean for College Access, Retention, and Success Sedric McClure

“Each one of those students who have a programming and mentorship role [are] being divided amongst our Assistant Dean, Director and Assistant Director,” Trueblood said.

Close interaction with Macalester students is something that Dinku is familiar with. Prior to being hired by the DML, Dinku worked as a residence hall director for 30BigWall. Her strong connection with the Mac community made returning much easier. 

“I really loved being a part of this community,” Dinku said, “Because of my relationship with students from when I was here before, I’ve been able in the last few years to stay connected with Mac students or meet new Mac students… It feels like a very smooth transition.”

Dinku also brings focus on community organizing to the DML.

“My personal life is [that] I’m a community organizer,” Dinku said. “I’m glad to be in spaces that see that as a benefit.”

Unlike Dinku, Morton is new to the Macalester community. Zirs original plan of going to graduate school was disrupted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting a job search which ended at Macalester. Zer is working alongside Dinku to create a new perspective and energy for the community, specifically in terms of diversity and LGBTQ work.

“I have been doing diversity work, specifically LGBTQ work, for the last 10 years of my life, whether as a student or a professional, so I knew I wanted to do something very similar to that,” Morton said.

Morton is also a strong proponent of the theme of radical joy. Maintaining joy in spite of turmoil and uncertainty is something that Dinku and Morton think is an important part of building community at Macalester.

“We are that meme of that dog holding the coffee mug in the fire saying, ‘everything is fine,’ and we can still enjoy that cup of coffee,” Morton said. “We really wanted to be able to center what joy and laughter and happiness brings us.”

“For me it’s about refusing to have them take away my humanity,” Dinku said, “It’s about seeing the reality of where we are, acknowledging that, accepting that, working against that, and at the same time having the audacity to still maintain your joy and still be who you are.”