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Faculty Fellow Team Appointed, Tasked With Multi-Dimensional DEI-Themed Action Plan

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
DEI Faculty Fellow Team
The college's new DEI Faculty Fellow Team, from left: Cynthia Cheshire, Jiwon Ahn and Rodney Obien.

Keene State College has named a three-person Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Faculty Fellow Team to assist colleagues and to help create and sustain a campus culture grounded in these principles and practices.

Announcement of the team and its charge was made recently by Dottie Morris - Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - and James Beeby, Provost and Vice president for Academic Affairs.

The 2023-24 Faculty Fellows are Jiwon Ahn, Cynthia Cheshire, and Rodney Obien.

“Keene State received special funding from the Board of Trustees for various initiatives, including the campus priority for DEI efforts. Last May, we invited interest in a new role, the DEI Faculty Fellow, and we are so pleased to announce we have established this team,” Morris and Beeby announced in their joint memo.

DEI initiatives aren’t just a trend or a buzzword; they’re the difference between student success and shirking our responsibility as educators. The work (of the team) has to become part of KSC’s identity and live on far longer than this fellowship.”

– Cynthia Cheshire, adjunct faculty, Department of Communication and Philosophy

While each team member will have specific areas of focus, collectively they will:

  • Collaborate with campus partners on efforts related to recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds;

  • Co-create strategies to increase the visibility of Keene State and enhance DEI exposure via the distribution of the scholarly endeavors of faculty, staff, and students;

  • Help to improve the overall campus climate for individuals from diverse backgrounds;

  • Provide support to faculty for classroom-related DEI issues.

“This is a timely initiative because we’re hearing a rising chorus of voices in our country saying, “No, don’t talk about this or that …don’t confront the hard topics,” Cheshire said. “But I’m a firm believer that talking through the hard stuff and pushing ourselves to hear multiple perspectives is how we as a society heal wounds and grow together.”

Individually, these are the team members’ areas of focus related to the greater body of work the three will do:

  • Ahn, associate professor of film: curriculum development, faculty professional development support and recruitment/retention/persistence efforts
  • Cheshire, adjunct faculty, Department of Communication and Philosophy: faculty classroom support, consultation and student support
  • Obien, associate professor/head of special collections and archives: research, scholarly work, and academic support

A justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion scholar, Obien drew a comparison of early-life connections that helped to shape him as a person to the environment of belonging he hopes to foster at Keene State in this role.

“I grew up in an environment with people from different backgrounds and ways of life. My childhood friend Alex Macleod, a Keene State grad, and I grew up together on the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“Who would ever think a kid from Massachusetts, mother from Tilton, N.H., and father from Nova Scotia, would be best friends with a kid whose family came from thousands of miles away from the Philippine islands.”

“My main priority is community-building,” said Ahn, who, since she began teaching at Keene State in 2004 has served on several diversity-themed committees, including the Women and Gender Studies Council and the International Faculty Commission. She was also part of the college’s Diversity Commission, a group she hopes to reconstitute in some form. “We have amazing work being produced on this campus related to diversity. I want to help bring people together to discuss all sorts of issues related to cultural, social, and political differences and explore ways of understanding, embracing, and being compassionate about them.”

Added Cheshire: “DEI initiatives aren’t just a trend or a buzzword; they’re the difference between student success and shirking our responsibility as educators,” Cheshire said. “The work has to become part of KSC’s identity and live on far longer than this fellowship. At the end of this fellowship, I hope that faculty feel more qualified and equipped to meet intersectional DEI realities in the classroom.”

As New Hampshire’s public liberal arts college, Keene State is relentlessly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and spells that out in its mission, vision and values statements.

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