Rachel Sawyer-Walker, the new Associate Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance (EDIC), joined Ramapo this fall with various experiences in student affairs, first starting as a resident assistant.
“I went to Eastern Connecticut State University where I went through a program called STEP/CAP which is the equivalent to an [Educational Opportunity Fund] program in New Jersey and that’s where I found my passion working with historically excluded populations,” Sawyer-Walker said.
She described having to sometimes build the very foundation for inclusive spaces and resources and watch them grow with maintenance from herself and her peers.
“I coordinated diversity programs, anti-racism training for students, faculty and staff, and created workshops and training for the university focused on how to build radical empathy for historically excluded populations,” she explained.
It was this desire to help students, especially minority groups, that inspired Sawyer-Walker’s vision for Ramapo. “My short term goal is to get to know the community and the needs of the community,” she said.
“I want to increase recruitment for marginalized populations and also increase retention rates too, particularly for students, staff and faculty of color,” she said. “To be able to do that, I am looking to create spaces for tough conversations, policy changes and working on our new Strategic Plan.”
This plan is her priority and part of her main mission. It involves multiple departments uniting in a shared perspective of diversity, equity and inclusion. “For example, the current plan includes mandatory [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] training for all faculty and staff. We want to continue to implement different DEI initiatives and policies through the plan to ensure we continue to put diversity at the forefront of all conversations,” she said.
Sawyer-Walker’s position focuses on bringing awareness to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) to other departments on campus.
The application of involvement that she foresees is being “on campus, building community, and most importantly, being a resource to everyone whether that’s educational, as a mentor, an advocate or even a supporter.”
“Working in a position that is focused so heavily on JEDI, it’s important for me to be able to share my personal experiences as a queer Black woman so that others who experience things such as microaggressions and racial trauma know they’re not alone and they have someone to talk [to],” Sawyer-Walker said. “Concurrently, I want to create spaces for allies and co-conspirators to learn more in order to foster a greater understanding.”
After she was asked about her interest in any of the events on campus, she expressed her excitement for the Multicultural Center, which will be opening next semester. Sawyer-Walker also emphasized that she looks forward to collaborating with other departments and organizations.
There are several events that will be hosted by the Office of Equity Diversity Inclusion and Compliance through mid-October to commemorate Hispanic Heritage month. To stay updated on upcoming affairs, a tentative list can be found on the Ramapo website.
“I am always looking to collaborate and hear feedback from the community,” Sawyer-Walker said. “If there are particular themed months students or staff are interested in, please feel free to reach out.”