The Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion launched its inaugural Administrative Fellows Program, with a group of six staff members starting the program January. The fellowship seeks to strengthen a “talented and diverse” staff by providing members with access to professional development resources and preparing “them to become leaders” in promoting inclusive communities within higher education, according to the program’s website. It is open to staff members in pay grades eight to 11, ranging from academic program coordinators to directors of centers.
Wendy McRae-Owoeye, senior director of the OIDI and leader of the Administrative Fellows Program, said the initiative was developed in response to a goal in the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which calls for Brown to “promote hiring practices, professional development and mentorship programs that will increase the diversity of staff and further their careers, especially staff from historically underrepresented groups.” Through the program, fellows will be able to build upon their existing professional skills by acting as “intentional leaders around diversity and inclusion” in support of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, McRae-Owoeye said.
Fellows will participate in “workshops, lectures and meetings with senior leaders across campus … and people across campus that are making changes … to the services we provide to students,” McRae-Owoeye said. Fellows will meet with individuals like Eric Estes, vice president for campus life, and Kelly Garrett, program director of the LGBTQ Center, according to the fellowship’s schedule.
From June through August, fellows will also have the opportunity to pursue research, McRae-Owoeye said.
The program also works to encourage dialogue between staff members participating in the fellowship and their supervisors in their day-to-day work, McRae-Owoeye said. “The expectations of the supervisor is to take the time to be supportive and open and to learn from their fellow,” she said. “Often we have diversity and inclusion conversations but we tend to only have them with people that we know.”
The Administrative Fellows Program selected six fellows for this cycle: Laura Dobler, Tiffiney George, Khamden Soch, Melissa Nicholaus, Ramon Stern and Ana Wildman.
Ana Wildman, assistant director at the Population Studies and Training Center and current fellow said, “What’s really amazing about this program is that it is the first time since I have been at Brown that I have seen a program geared towards staff that involves development, mentoring and aligned resources … it is an opportunity to retain talent at Brown.”
Wildman also said she hopes the program can give her more insight on opportunities to build bridges between the greater Providence community and campus.
“I have a great number of immigrant friends who work in the periphery of the campus whose children will be attending college one day and Brown still feels really … unattainable,” Wildman said. “How do we welcome them into the campus, and how do we extend an arm out into the community so that Brown is not just this ivory tower?”
Khamden Soch, a grant and academic program coordinator and a fellow, said the program is an “instrumental” opportunity for staff members that are “under the radar” but excel in their work with their respective departments. “Building these connections and networks is invaluable,” he added.
McRae-Owoeye said the fellowship is slated to become an annual program with current fellows expected to become mentors in the next cycle. She is confident in the program’s ability to have a lasting effect on campus conversation around diversity and inclusion.
“As long as the University continues to intentionally dedicate resources, not only financial but also people resources — that’s when we will see change,” she said.