200 Days in the Life of the College

Tuesday, February 22

Diversity programs, yes, but it’s also a journey within

By Allison Eck ’12

Chief Diversity Officer Donald Carter observes that multiculturalism has been an issue of concern since the College’s infant years. “Samuel Kirkland himself spoke several Native American languages,” says Carter, who is also a professor of Africana studies. “We have these really great models to look back on.”

Carter was appointed to the newly created position by President Joan Hinde Stewart last summer in order to “oversee College diversity efforts and help us build the most inclusive and welcoming community possible,” she told the campus community. Carter parses that agenda into several categories; his duties include acting as the College liaison for the Posse program, coordinating the development of long-term diversity planning, working closely with new Days-Massolo Center Director Amit Taneja, and communicating directly with students of different cultural and economic backgrounds. “The role is developing even as I sit in it,” he says.

Carter was the first in his family to enroll in an institution of higher learning — as were several other faculty and senior staff members, including Stewart herself — and he says that such students occasionally need the extra nudge. “It’s been hard to provide them with the kind of support they might need as students new to this process,” he says. “Sometimes [the transition] can be really daunting if you don’t have someone who’s prepared you for it.”

Beyond individual programs, Carter says, the College is seeking to create a culture of intimacy and discussion across boundaries. “Students need to develop in their own minds a kind of diversity education for themselves,” he says. “How do I learn something about Africa or Asia? How do I put myself in a context where I maybe have to speak another language? It means opening up to this new global world that we’re in. It’s a lifelong process.”