Deadline approaches for diversity fund

The Diversity Innovation Fund’s proposal deadline is Monday, Nov. 2, marking the fund’s  third semester of existence.

Allegheny College began the fund in fall of 2014 in the hopes of promoting diversity and inclusion. Diaz said the funds were relocated from her office’s original budget to this one, reaching a total of $16,000 for the academic year.

“It started through listening to the Allegheny community,” said Ande Diaz, the associate provost for diversity and organizational development.

Diaz said that the selection committee grants money to projects that they hope will have a continuous effect in fostering diversity and inclusion. According to the Allegheny website, the fund is also meant to speed up the improvement of the Allegheny campus climate.

“The idea is that these ideas will have long-term impacts,” Diaz said.

According to Diaz, this does not always mean that the funds go exclusively to projects that are continuous. She said funds can also be granted to projects that are not ongoing, but that will have a continuously positive impact on the campus for years to come.

One example of this kind of funding is the Concepts of Intercultural Competence project, which is being co-sponsored by Biology Professor Catharina Coenen, Chemistry Professor and Biochemistry Chair Alice Deckert, Director of International Education Jenny Kawata, Research and Instruction Librarian Cynthia Burton and Kris Troy, ’16.

The project consists of students, faculty and staff gathering and discussing short stories by author Ursula LeGuin. The aim was to connect campus community members who are involved in the sciences with ideas of diversity and how they can incorporate those ideas into their work.

The project only consists of four sessions—falling on Sept. 4, Oct. 9, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4—and two meetings in the spring of 2016 for de-briefing and a public panel discussion. Diaz said that the conversations held will affect the way students interact with each other in the classroom and on how faculty and staff will interact with students.

Typically, projects can receive anywhere from $500 to $3,000, though Diaz said the committee can grant more or less at their discretion.

“Sometimes people have a great idea that only needs a little bit, and sometimes people need a little bit more,” she said. 

I asked to be on the committee not because I have a long history with diversity work, but because I think it’s important and I want to learn.

— Jeffrey Hollerman

The number of projects the committee approve varies depending on the requested funds for each, but the committee has granted funds for five projects for each of the last two semesters.

Associate Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Hollerman is this year’s selection committee chair. The chair is always filled by someone from the Council on Diversity and Equity.

“I asked to be on the committee not because I have a long history with diversity work, but because I think it’s important and I want to learn,” Hollerman said.

Also on the committee are two students who have yet to be chosen, and Linda Lees, the office manager for the associate vice president for advancement. According to Hollerman, funds can be granted to collaborations between faculty, staff, students or any combination of the three.

“We’re…trying to represent all those entities on the committee,” said Hollerman.

The committee selects projects based on collaboration as well as long-term effect, so no single person is awarded funds.

One of the most recent projects to receive funding was the First-Generation and Low-Income group, co-founded by Assistant Professor of English Aline Lo and Assistant Professor of Psychology Ryan Pickering. They applied for funds in the spring of 2015 in order to host a networking event for students in the fall of 2015.

“This was our second diversity initiative fund,” said Pickering.

The group’s event was meant to give low-income or first-generation students the opportunity to gain experience networking, since Pickering said many do not have experience prior to attending college.

“We invited alumni to come chat with students,” he said.

Pickering said he appreciates the fund. This is the second semester the group has received it. Although he believes they could have gathered some students for the event, he does not believe they would have received such a good turnout without being able to pay to have catering at the event.

“I don’t think we could have done this without the funds,” he said.

According the Pickering, the fund is beneficial to anyone attending the college because it displays the image of support from the institution.

“I think that shows the institution’s commitment to what diversity is,” he said.