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When Twin Cities (Minnesota) Public Television wanted to showcase neuroscience careers for the Latinx community by highlighting role models in the field, they turned their cameras onto SNC's Raquel Lopez (Psychology). Here, Lopez (right) discusses her work with her research partner Corinna Jauregui ’19.

Mission-Focused Trustee Gift Fosters Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

A $300,000 gift will power a new fund dedicated to mission-aligned faculty development in equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB). The endowment comes from Karen McDiarmid ’75, a college trustee. McDiarmid says, “I hope the story we tell today through this endowment helps form the future.”

Initially, the fund will provide opportunities for new faculty, focused first on advancing faculty understanding of mission as it’s lived out through teaching and and as it’s spoken of in the classroom. Endowment-supported programming may include instruction in new pedagogies, a mentorship program for minority hires, and the chance to visit the Norbertine community ministering to Hispanic and indigenous populations in Albuquerque, N.M.

Eloquence opens doors
The endowment’s creation came out of a mutual interest in the topic, says Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, provost and vice president for academic affairs. In 2020, Bonds-Raacke had invited several college faculty and staff members to discuss their experiences at SNC with the board of trustees. One participant was Bola Delano-Oriaran (Education).

McDiarmid says, “She spoke so eloquently to the issues minorities face in our college community. As trustees, we hear diversity reports, but sometimes they’re just numbers. But what are the stories behind those numbers?”

The trustee immediately approached Bonds-Raacke, saying she wanted to partner with the college in addressing this topic. Over the next year, the idea of an endowment targeting professional development in EDIB for faculty members emerged.

McDiarmid calls out the relevance of SNC's mission to its vital work of fostering equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging. “The three traditions of our mission are Catholic, liberal arts and Norbertine,” she says. “Each of those traditions calls to us – whether [as] an alumna, student, staff member, trustee, faculty. We’re called upon to love one another. That’s not always easy. We can’t allow for division. We need to up the communication, the understanding.”

Enhancing knowledge about the college's heritage and founding principles via faculty development will create a trickle-down effect that will ultimately reach students, generation unto generation, so that everybody walks away with a better understanding of SNC's mission.

Bonds-Raacke agrees, “Our student body is going to become more diverse in the next five years, and we want to make sure our faculty is well-equipped to provide a classroom environment where all students can flourish.” 

While specific use of the funds will likely continually evolve to suit the needs of the college, its first disbursements will be focused on SNC’s newest hires. St. Norbert is in the process of recruiting 13 new faculty members across various disciplines, targeting people who reflect diversity in both race and ethnicity, as well as areas of scholarship and research. This cohort will begin work in August for the 2022-23 academic year.

Efforts are currently underway to develop programming but Bonds-Raacke can already float two possibilities. One is to find mentors for minority hires – ideally people at St. Norbert, but if the college isn’t yet home to appropriate mentors, the instructors could be paired with mentors at similar institutions. Another possibility is to send first-year faculty members to Santa Maria de la Vid, a Norbertine abbey in Albuquerque, N.M., ministering to immigrant and indigenous populations in the region. At the abbey, the instructors would learn more about the Catholic and Norbertine traditions, plus new pedagogies for a diverse environment.

Endowed with wisdom
McDiarmid’s donation falls under the college’s Support What Matters campaign, which will see its kick-off event later this spring. The campaign focuses on the benefits of creating or contributing to an endowment fund.

As McDiarmid sees it, an endowment lasts forever, linking current SNC students and faculty with future generations. She says, “I think the story of St. Norbert has to be one of love and respect, even in the tough times. We need to lead by action and example, which is why this is an exciting endowment.”

Bonds-Raacke agrees, saying doing EDIB work is consistent with St. Norbert’s values as a Catholic, Norbertine institution. “I love that we're beginning to ask people before they come here: Here are our values as a Catholic, Norbertine institution, and how will you contribute to that environment? 

“Sometimes we say EDIB, sometimes DEIB. The B, for St. Norbert is a really important part: belonging. In the Norbertine value of localitas, in having community, you need members who feel they belong. It's not just about having diverse voices represented, but taking it to the next step and making sure diverse voices are present, valued and equally contributing members.

“You might see DEI at other places in higher education, but we are positioned to do it in a more meaningful way because it's such a part of who we are at our foundation. It’s part of our social justice teachings, and our Catholic intellectual tradition.”

Feb. 16, 2022