In Dr. Calvin Hill’s view, this is the perfect time to be the Diversity Officer at St. Thomas.
The University of St. Thomas recently hired a new Diversity Officer. He went through several formal interviews during the process and now that he is on campus, we sent of our Public Relations intern, Loic Attikossie to drop by and have a chat with Dr. Calvin Hill. We wanted to provide the student with an opportunity to learn a few things about Dr. Hill. Here’s what Hill had to say about the initiatives he is leading at UST:
Loic: What drew you to St. Thomas?
That’s a good question. I’ve heard that one a lot. For me, I was looking for a career change. And I had a number of campuses I was looking at. One of my goals was to find an urban location. One of the things I liked about St. Thomas was the proximity to the St. Paul/Minneapolis urban core.
I grew up in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and as well as did my graduate work at Howard University in Washington DC so I really wanted get to an area that had what I would consider a vibrant cultural center. What I found is that this is an institution that fits that niche. When I came to the Twin Cities in November, not only was it visually stimulating when I walked around campus, but as I got an opportunity to interview and meet people, I just felt like this was a place where I would feel comfortable as well as a place where I could make a difference.
Loic: What did you major in?
Dr. Hill: As an undergraduate, I was a history and political science double major. My goal back then was to go law school, but then I did an internship my junior and then I didn’t changed my mind. I had to revamp myself. I did my master’s degree in Student Personal Administration, which is similar to the Educational Leadership, and Student Affairs program that St. Thomas has here. And I did my PhD in the area that I love which is political science. I wanted to study and research what was considered a hard discipline. And I also wanted to go to a Historical Black College ((HBCU.)
Loic: Describe your job in one sentence
Dr. Hill: I can probably do that in a few words. It is to create community.
I think about diversity and it’s about creating a climate that’s going to allow everyone to be successful and creating a climate where everyone is going to talk to each other. If you don’t know your neighbor then you’re not in a community.
Loic: What was the path to your current position?
Dr. Hill: I sort of came to diversity by default. My first job was an admission counselor for minority students at a predominantly white school. Yet, I was fortunate to have had great mentors along the way. One recommended I do my masters in student affairs. I knew when I was in that program I wanted to give back to students who had similar experiences to mine while trying to complete their education. I knew the trials and tribulations of being the only person to look like myself in a classroom and feeling like I had to give 120%. So for me going into D & I was not necessarily intentional. It was a path based on a passion, a need to give back.
Loic: What was the best advice you received along the way?
Dr. Hill: The best advice I had along the way was to go to Historical Black College. One of my mentors was Dr. Edward Butler at Emporia State University in Kansas, who had gotten me there for my Master’s program. I think Dr. Butler got tired of me complaining about being on a majority campus. As I was looking at doctorial programs, he told me, “Do something different do something for yourself.” I was admitted to the PhD program at Howard University. I flourished in DC. If you haven’t’ had a black college experience, in my opinion it is definitely worthwhile.
Loic: What are some initiatives will you be working this year?
Dr. Hill: One of those will be staff hiring. I want to make sure all of our students see staff members that are diverse; diverse faculty, and diverse individuals in leadership roles on campus.
We’ll be also looking at our recruitment process around creating a more diverse student body. We want to diversify our student population. That’s not just in reference in the terms in race and ethnicity. We’re going to be talking about how students are diverse from social economical differences, from ideological differences, regional differences. So we want to bring people to this campus that are diverse from all dimensions of human diversity. When we go into the world of work, we going to run into people that are different from ourselves. The more we can make St. Thomas a microcosm of the world, more specifically, the United States, the better prepared our graduates will be.
Loic: What do you value as a leader and diversity officer?
Dr. Hill: One thing I value is community. I can’t do my job alone. If you expect one person to come into this role and snap his/her fingers and make this a diverse campus, then you are wrong. My job is to serve as someone that can collaborate with different offices, students and create a climate that brings about increased civility and increased aspects of inclusion.
Loic: Has anything surprised you about UST so far?
Dr. Hill The level of openness to diversity. Right now, I’m meeting with what you would consider “the choir”. You know, the people that see the ultimate vision. I think that on every campus there are people who are maybe reluctant to change or are questioning perhaps why we need to change but I have not run into that. Everyone has been really open and has been talking about how diversity is absolutely critical to St. Thomas’ success and to its long-term longevity.
Loic: Is there anything else you would like the student body to know about you?
Dr. Hill: Oh my gosh, as you will see, today is bow tie Wednesdays. I know you guys have Tommie Tuesdays but I’m trying to bring to the institution but I’m trying to bring bow tie Wednesdays to St. Thomas. That’s sort of my trademark.
I’m a very open person and I want students to see me across campus or come into my office and feel like they can talk to me. I want to be here for all students, majority students and students from diverse backgrounds alike. You know we’re here for students. I can’t do my job if I don’t understand the student’s experience. I want students at any point and time to come say hi. Don’t hesitate to raise concern towards things that you feel need to change.
Loic: I was going to mention something about the bow tie, I like it.
Dr. Hill: Well thank you
Dr. Hill will be visiting with students during SDIS Purple Bench time on Thursday February 19 from 2-3 p.m. Please drop by and continue the conversation!
Interview conducted by Loïc Attikossie