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BCSC search for new director continues amid staff departures

With input from students, staff, alumni, new director will shape the center’s future

Staff Writer
Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Brown Center for Students of Color is in the process of searching for a new director, planning to pick someone to assume the position by the summer. 

The new director, along with new staff members who will eventually fill current vacancies, will play a large role in shaping the atmosphere of the center “based on the staff’s own philosophies and ideas,” Interim Director of the BCSC Loc Truong wrote in an email to The Herald. 

After months of crafting a job description, the BCSC Director Search Committee — which is composed of three undergraduate students, two graduate students, four staff members and one faculty member — is using Koya Leadership Partners to find and interview candidates. Truong wrote they are looking for a candidate who exhibits “dedication to the growth and positive experience of students of color.” 

The willingness and ability to work with and mentor students is another vital attribute of a potential candidate. “Many of the interactions a staff (member) might have with a student could be on social, personal and academic support, and it is important for staff to understand resources available to students and be able to make referrals to departments across campus,” Truong wrote.

After controversy in 2019 about a lack of student input being implemented and heard at the BCSC, Truong prioritized a commitment to ensuring as many community stakeholders were represented in the selection process as possible. That process “has not only received positive student feedback, but was built in direct collaboration with Brown students — true to the ethos and character of the BCSC,” he wrote. 

Undergraduate and graduate students on the committee played a large role in writing the job description for the director last semester and now hold regular meetings to provide feedback on the search. “I feel my input is being valued, especially because we aren’t in as much of a scramble anymore and so we are taking the time to be very thorough,” undergraduate committee member Sara Alavi ’21 said. 

Alavi expressed her hope that the new director will “bring a lot of passion both for students and the work we are doing at the BCSC by supporting student activism and creating a space that is comforting and empowering.” 

“After all of the staffing changes this past year, we are all kind of hoping for continued commitment to creating close ties to students of color here,” Alavi said. Committee members  want a candidate who has “more lived and practical experiences that will help them build mentorship relationships and be good role models, rather than degrees or qualifications.”

The BCSC community as a whole “has been involved in the hiring process through many targeted listening sessions, membership on search committees and feedback via email,” Truong wrote. The committee also created an anonymous feedback form so that any BCSC community members can provide feedback.

In addition to the search for a new director, there have been two recent staff departures at the BCSC. 

Kristy Kumar left her position as assistant director for co-curricular initiatives Jan. 5 of this year to work for the City of Madison, WI. She will be leading a new Equity Division within the Department of Civil Rights as the Equity and Social Justice Manager. “After five years in higher-education, I wanted to move into city government to cultivate tangible racial justice and equity policies through systems-level change,” Kumar wrote in an email to the Herald. 

Kumar expressed her pride in working for a center that has played an integral role in many students’ lives. “I’m deeply proud of the work I was able to collectively dream and implement with colleagues and students as co-conspirators of projects rooted in racial justice, coalition-building and solidarity across identities,” Kumar wrote. “I’m particularly proud of the ways we reclaimed and recentered joy along the way.”

Maurisa Li-A-Ping, former coordinator for first-year and sophomore programs, also recently left the BCSC to pursue an MFA in creative writing. “In my position, I was able to build transformative relationships with students and colleagues that prompted our growth and development,” she told The Herald.

There is not currently a timeline in place for selecting replacements to fill Kumar and Li-A-Ping’s roles. Other BCSC staff members will take on their responsibilities in the interim, according to a statement sent to the BCSC community from Truong reviewed by The Herald. 

Looking ahead to the future of the BCSC, Li-A-Ping believes the center is at a “pivotal time in its growth right now.” She hopes they will “continue their legacy of activism, advocating for and with communities of color and creating spaces for (people of color) at Brown to celebrate, grieve and grow.”

Alavi is optimistic that future staff changes will bring new perspectives and experiences to the community. “Whoever is hired in whatever position will have a pretty major impact (on the center),” Alavi said. “I have a lot of faith in the fact that whoever is hired next will bring their own personality and experiences to this space.” 

Truong echoed Alavi’s sentiments. “The BCSC professional staff make their mark at the Center through their own individual ways of being and doing, which is one of the things our students most appreciate about them,” he wrote.

Despite future staff members having not been chosen yet, Truong believes the core values of the center will persist. “This does not mean that the overall ethos and charge of the center will change,” Truong wrote. “Our staff is dedicated to honoring the rich history of the (BCSC) and ensuring that this history is reflected in current programs and student needs.”

Clarification: A previous version of this article indicated that The Herald interviewed Maurisa Li-A-Ping by email. In fact, the interview was conducted over the phone. 

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