Meeting DU’s new Black Community Experience Coordinator
In keeping with the Black History Month theme of my posts this month, I had an opportunity to talk with one of DU’s newest employees, Andriette Jordan-Fields, PhD, the first Black Community Experience Coordinator. Laid out in the position announcement for this history-making role, which is currently funded through the end of June this year, Andriette has the huge task of prioritizing and laying the groundwork for work that could be and should be done “to facilitate the University’s response to the systemic and institutional exclusion of Black people at DU.”
Currently in the midst of a listening tour, she said that Black students, faculty, and staff describe similar stories about their experiences at DU. “Some of the people I’ve talked to end up in tears, as they recount the trauma they’ve suffered,” said Andriette. She talked about their fatigue from fighting to be seen, recognized, and deemed worthy to be here.
Whether it’s directly addressing microaggressions in the classroom and office or removing inequities along the tenure track, DU has many opportunities to achieve its aspirations of inclusive excellence espoused in the Chancellor’s Statement on Diversity. An excerpt from the statement says, “We aim to attract bright and motivated students and give them every opportunity to thrive. We rely on engaged faculty who are passionate about their teaching and their scholarship. We depend on talented staff to support the operation and mission of the University.”
When I asked her why she’s involved in this work, her response was, “Liberation is my passion.” Known as “the fixer” in her family, her passion is supported by the belief that “if people see the humanity in each other, it will change the world.”
During the five months she’s expecting to be in place, Andriette has already begun looking at the past, current, and future state of the University, and its relationship with the Black community. She has a specific set of objectives she plans to achieve, which begins with the formation of a steering committee charged with developing a vision, mission, and bylaws for the soon-to-be-formed Black Community Advisory Board (BCAB). The BCAB will be comprised of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members who will lay the framework and foundation for longer term goals to be accomplished whether she continues in the role past this fiscal year or not. One of the additional initiatives she’d like to see is the formation of a Black Studies Institute or Critical Race Institute, which could be a hub for intersectional work crossing disciplines and cultures, and extending out into the Denver community.
Starting a new position during Black History Month and Andriette’s commitment to laying the groundwork for this work to continue embodies the words of former US Representative and current University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan regarding the significance of this month and beyond. He said, “Black History Month must be more than just a month of remembrance; it should be a tribute to our history and reminder of the work that lies in the months and years ahead.”