A commitment to progress: How UOG is fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion
The national outcry over the George Floyd case became a catalyst for a movement
that would bring a new awareness to institutional racism and the unequal treatment
of communities of color in the United States. The case and the events that followed
ignited opportunities for an awakening and meaningful change on a bigger scale.
Universities and institutions across the nation began to reflect more than ever on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Decision-makers and administrators started having the difficult conversations, developing programs and resources, and looking for ways to create deeper, sustained change.
In 2020, the University of Guam joined these critical conversations and committed to building a more inclusive environment for all students, faculty, staff, and guests.
As part of the Para Hulo' strategic plan, the University's Island Wisdom committee established the Inadahi yan Inagofli'e' Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. The council is devoted to ensuring that UOG is a campus where all people feel safe and welcome.
"We are mindful of the national conversations surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice, and how our institution has introduced a profound way to recognize and leverage cultural values that stem from Island Wisdom — a way of knowing and a way of doing to honor our differences," said Anita Borja Enriquez, senior vice president and provost.
Additionally, the council aims to develop regionally and culturally relevant policy rooted in the Micronesian island values of compassion, respect, and community.
Initiatives the University plans to implement within the next five years include: Adopting a comprehensive DEI statement, providing robust training for institutional leadership, and reviewing and revising all existing policies and procedures to align with DEI values.
During November 2020, the committee established the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Center to maximize resources and provide support to ensure every facet of the University embodies equity, diversity, and inclusion. The center aims to support a culture of inclusion by amplifying diverse Triton voices and helping all students achieve success in and out of the classroom.
"The mission of our DEI Center is to provide students with pertinent information on the subject and the importance of DEI-related initiatives as we look at the issue from the lens of Island Wisdom," said Lawrence Camacho, dean of enrollment management and student success. "It's also a physical space to promote dialogue and the unpacking of ideas to better serve our community through respect and compassion for one another."
The DEI Center will be housed within the Student Services Center on campus and will be fully operational by November 2022.
"It is designed to be a space where students can come to be heard," said DEI Center Coordinator Cyaundra Shimizu Quitugua. "A place that will provide accountability for every Triton to ensure an inclusive educational environment. And an area for opportunities without bias."
In 2019, Camacho and the 57th Student Government Association collaborated and established the inaugural Tritons Out Loud event — UOG's first-ever event dedicated to promoting and celebrating diversity on campus.
"In addition to celebrating the different variety of cultural groups, ethnicities, and individuals with disabilities — we celebrated the pride, love, and support we have for the LGBTQ community," said Evander De Guzman, the 57th SGA President. "We wanted to make it known that our university loves, supports, and accepts everyone not just for what they believe or want to pursue, but also for who they are as an individual."
Now an annual event organized by SGA, Tritons Out Loud continues to be a key event that celebrates the differences and qualities that make each person and community unique.
"It is an important event to conduct on an annual basis because it reminds students of the importance of respecting, honoring, and celebrating the diverse nature of our student population," Camacho said. "Tritons Out Loud allows us to enjoy the beautiful mosaic of our campus community."
Taking a step further toward progress, SGA established a DEI committee in 2020 to align with the University's commitment. The committee will work closely with the DEI Center on initiatives and events.
Since the initial push in 2020, the University has taken multiple steps to build a campus community where all members feel seen, heard, and supported — a place where everyone experiences a sense of belonging. The University recognizes that there is still much to be done and remains committed to progress, bridging gaps in understanding, and building a campus community rooted in island values.