Diversity Leadership Scholars get together for personal and professional development throughout the year. Photo: Penh Alicandro ’22
Eckerd College’s Office for Inclusive Excellence is entering its second academic year with new initiatives and a new assistant director.
Interim President Jim Annarelli realigned the work of Inclusive Excellence this summer by elevating Beverly Warren, Ed.D.., from executive director to vice president for inclusive excellence. She had already served on the Executive Staff and reported to the president, but moving into a vice presidency formalizes the College’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as a key part of the institutional mission.
“It was really just acknowledging the scope of the work included in Inclusive Excellence,” Warren explains. “A vice president of inclusive excellence guides DEIB efforts not only on the academic side of the house but also with Human Resources, the student body and with staff.”
Blanca Catalina Garcia ’03 joins the department as its first assistant director of inclusive excellence—a dream come true for the enthusiastic alumna.
“When I left Eckerd College, every job I have done has been something that was created. These roles did not exist before I came into them, and I take pride in that,” Garcia says.
Before returning to Eckerd, she worked in DEIB at the Advanced Technology Development Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology. One of her key roles on the Eckerd campus will be interfacing with students, including leadership of affinity groups and Diversity Leadership Scholars—scholarship recipients from marginalized groups recruited to Eckerd for a special enrichment program.
The first year of Inclusive Excellence at Eckerd was a flurry of activity. After taking time to get to know the community and hear its concerns, Warren helped establish a standing committee on the Board of Trustees dedicated to DEIB and then collaborated with faculty to create an Inclusive Excellence standing committee of faculty to address DEIB matters as it relates to faculty and academia. This committee was ratified in the spring of 2022 and spearheaded by Lisa Miller and Erika Spohrer. Students, faculty and staff offered their honest feedback on a campus climate survey used to gauge the general community sentiment around inclusivity. Student Life, Religious Life and Inclusive Excellence offices collaborated to hold a series of talks with students across campus focused on campus culture and DEIB issues, so administrators could hear student concerns and foster an ongoing dialogue.
Blanca Catalina Garcia ’03
Admission staff speak with Diversity Leadership Scholars. Photo: Penh Alicandro ’22
Warren says a part of the next chapter for Inclusive Excellence at Eckerd will be working to enhance the Diversity Leadership Scholars program with programming aimed at personal and professional development throughout each scholarship recipient’s full college career. In addition to the mentors every Eckerd student receives, Inclusive Excellence is working with Alumni Engagement to pair Scholars with alumni mentors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Established in 2018, the Eckerd Diversity Leadership Scholars program now has 73 total recipients—25 of whom are currently first-year students.
In consultation with Human Resources, Inclusive Excellence is also in discussions to potentially establish affinity groups for faculty and staff to create social support networks on campus for employees.
Inclusive Excellence also will take an interdepartmental team to Wabash College in October to the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium meeting to analyze the results of the climate survey from the spring.
Garcia is excited for the work to come, particularly since she is returning to an institution she credits for shaping her, now in her 20th year since graduation.
“It’s a really special time in my life,” she explains. “It was a shift for me to go out into the world when I left Eckerd. I got to create my own opportunities and come back to offer what talents I accumulated while I was gone. I hope to create a positive impact by pouring into an institution that has poured into me.”