College covers $1,600 social justice training for faculty

Bellevue College is covering the $1,600 cost of attending a comprehensive social justice training, prioritizing employees from “historically underrepresented groups.”

Developed by Dr. Sayumi Irey, the interim vice president for diversity at Bellevue, the “Social Justice Leadership Institute” recruits 20 college faculty and staff every year to participate in a year-long, comprehensive social justice program.

During the program, which takes place over the course of an entire academic year, participants attend a retreat, five workshops, and the upcoming Faculty and Staff of Color Conference, an annual conference for higher ed professionals across the state.

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According to a biography she forwarded to Campus Reform, the idea for the program came after Dr. Irey finished her PhD thesis on how Asian-American women assume leadership positions at community colleges. In an attempt to put what she learned into action, she created the Social Justice Training Institute.

While the cost of the program is $1,600 per participant, Bellevue College pledges to “sponsor the cost for participant’s learning” for any participants from Bellevue, as well as the “planning and administrative costs “ that go along with the program.

“The first preference will go to an individual who is either an employee of color and/or other members of historically underrepresented groups,” the website notes, specifying that this could include “a person with a disability, and/or a person who identifies as LGBTQIA sexual minority.”

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Citing time constraints, Dr. Irey spoke to Campus Reform only briefly to confirm that she came up with the idea for the program, and that Bellevue College has actively and enthusiastically supported her work since.

The program, she told Campus Reform, “is a professional development institute using a social justice lens, not [a] white-dominant lens,” for minority faculty, adding that it “is important for students to see visible [minority] role models.”

Campus Reform spoke with one of the program’s first attendees, Roslyn Leon Guerrero, who praised the program for helping minorities “foster their leadership identity as a person in systemically non-dominant groups,” who “need the connections” the program can offer.

Guerrero, who also works at Clark College’s Diversity and Equity Office, told Campus Reform that the program was especially “equitable and inclusive,” and that she’s since made friends she still keeps in touch with.

“My cohort and I still communicate regularly and are supportive of each other. I love the comradery,” Guerrero said.

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Other participants praised the program on the program’s website.

“As a person of color working in WA college system, this is the first time I've been in an environment where I've felt truly to be myself,” said one attendee from Green River Community College. “The power and magnitude of that is tremendous.”

Another attendee credited the program for giving them the inspiration to create a diversity program on their campus, saying it made them “reflect and envision a mission, goal, and plan to develop our diversity initiative.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen