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Equally at Home at St. Norbert College

It was a sense of what’s already in place in the St. Norbert community, along with its evident eagerness to do more, that attracted Amanda Kim to her work at St. Norbert College. The Chicago native is the first incumbent of a new position in the president’s office, where she serves as senior adviser for equity, diversity and inclusion.

“What I came to learn about St. Norbert College is that it’s a wonderfully safe, welcoming, friendly place. And I saw lots of potential,” says Kim, who was most recently at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “Probably most importantly, I met many individuals [who] were excited, eager and thirsty to do the kind of work that is most fun for me.”

Kim, who also has served at Michigan State University, University of Akron and the University of Michigan, contrasts larger, state- or research funded institutions with the small liberal-arts, Catholic culture of St. Norbert College.

At the bigger institutions “it becomes much more about requirements, accountability and metrics, of institutionalizing the efforts,” she says. “At St. Norbert College, because of the size, it’s actually possible for me to work with individuals and different departments based on relationships, and based on trying to understand what it is that allows what would be necessary for the potential changes to occur.”

To begin with, Kim says she wants to determine what is in place, where there are gaps or missed opportunities and to “invite those individuals or communities to the table so that we can find out what it would take to get them here.”

At the same time, she recognizes the importance of working with the majority (including longtime faculty and staff) as well as alumni, many of whom have experienced diversification at work.

She says she’s impressed with what is already happening, citing the Sturzl Center for Community Service & Learning for its efforts to connect students, faculty and staff with the community; the Cassandra Voss Center and its work with gender and identity issues; and Multicultural Student Services.

Her challenge, Kim says, is “how do I connect these efforts and better support what is already happening very well, rather than creating my own programs?”

With the hiring of a more diverse faculty, and with the enrollment of students of color increasing annually and, this year, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the incoming class, Kim says the college already has experience of a changing culture and is nearing an interesting tipping point.

“It calls all of us to reflect on how, as an institution, this is a dynamic place that is continually evolving with a sense of wanting to respect and maintain the tradition and its legacy – but we can’t quite remain the same.”

March 31, 2014