DEI Task Force Update from DEI Task Force Co-Chairs

Feb 11, 2021

Dear North Central College Campus Community,

On behalf of the members of the President’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we would like to wish you a belated Happy New Year, with hopes that you are having a smooth start to the semester. It was wonderful to see so many of you participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities, and we look forward to engaging with you for more events throughout the term, including the programming for Black History Month.

As with the social unrest and racial reckoning that was accelerated last summer, the insurgency at the Capitol on January 6 underscores the importance of the work we all do together to address white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other power-based oppression in all its forms, from the most violent and offensive to that which is tacit or even well-intended. We appreciate your interest and support in moving forward with our charge to effect permanent, cultural change on our campus.

This note is intended to provide a broad update on the Task Force’s activities and initiatives, as well as introduce you to our new structure. To increase our ability to fulfill our charge and welcome more of you into the work, we have adopted a spokes-of-the-wheel model whereby ad hoc Working Groups are formed and report back to the Task Force on various elements of our responsibilities. At the end of this note, you will see the composition of the five initial groups, four of which got underway this past fall.

The Campus Climate Study group began in September 2020 and coordinated the administration of the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Diversity and Equity Campus Climate survey to campus in October 2020. More than 1,000 members of the campus community participated in the survey, the results of which have been processed by HEDS and given to North Central. Dr. Nicole Rivera and Dr. Jennifer Shah have conducted three focus groups with members of student organizations to examine their lived experiences on campus in order to supplement the findings from the survey. During the spring 2021 semester, Dr.Suzanne Chod will be leading a team to analyze survey results and Drs. Rivera and Shah will be coordinating additional focus group sessions. Student research positions to assist with those projects are available for application on the College’s employment website. Reports will be drafted by these groups, and findings will be disseminated by the end of Spring semester.

Members of the North Central College community who would like to make themselves available for future Working Group assignments can reach out to Task Force co-chairs Dorothy Pleas ( or Stephen Maynard Caliendo (

In addition to the Working Groups, the Task Force has the following plans for the semester:

  • Capacity-building training for the Task Force, featuring Deepa Iyer (Social Change Ecosystem)
  • Campus forums 
    • One centering on political manifestations of white supremacy in the United States (date TBD)
    • One reporting on results of Climate Study (date TBD)
  • Continued partnership with OMC to populate the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website
  • Consideration of strategies to increase the number of BIPOC faculty at the College
  • Implementation of undocumented student support strategies suggested by Everybody Comes In (ECI) student group
  • Discussions about imminent expansion of the Task Force’s work beyond race and ethnicity

Below are the Task Force’s ad hoc working groups:

Faculty Retention and Evaluation
Dr. Marco V. Martinez, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Actuarial Science (chairperson)
Dr. Donnavieve Smith, Associate Professor of Marketing
Dr. Rebecca Gordon, Assistant Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Dr. Shelley Birdsong, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Dr. Chandreyee Mitra, Assistant Professor of Biology
Dr. Megan Paustian, Associate Professor of English
Dr. Leila Azarbad, Professor of Psychology
David Cordero, Assistant Professor of Art and Design 
Dr. Laura Lodewyck, Assistant Professor of Theatre 
Dr. Sohinee Roy, Associate Professor of English
Hale Ekinci, Associate Professor of Art and Design

Staff Retention and Evaluation 
Haydee Nunez (chairperson), Director of Career Development
Sharon Merrill, Director of Human Resources
Elizabeth Nicholson, Interim Coordinator of Library Services; Instructional Services Librarian
James Miller, Director of Athletics
Keinesha Balkcom, Accounts Payable Specialist
Marian Pettaway, Director of the Annual Fund, Office of Development 
Natalie Vivacqua, Director of Operations, Business Operations
Tiffany Backstrom, Assistant Registrar

Diversity Statement
Davin Allen ’20, MA ’22 (chairperson), Graduate Assistant, First Generation Programs
Dr. Suzanne Chod, Associate Professor of Political Science
Andrew Sauer, Assistant Director of Sports Information
Dr. Tiffany Delane, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies
Jacqueline Taylor ’19, MA ’21, Graduate Assistant, First Generation Programs
Elizabeth Rodriguez ’21
Penelope Reyes ’21
Khadeil Ergas, Graduate Assistant, Office of Multicultural Affairs 

Bias Policy 
Kamelotte Gregory MA ’20 (chairperson), Assistant Director, Center for Social Impact
Dorothy Pleas, Assistant Dean of Students; Director of Multicultural Affairs
Kimberly Garibay ’23         
Sue Kane ‘02, Associate Athletic Director; Senior Woman Administrator
Dr. Sean Kim Butorac, Assistant Professor of Political Science  
Soile Talmadge ’22
Milia Harris ’20, MA ’22, Graduate Assistant, Center for Social Impact and Leadership Ethics and Values Program
Dr. Michael Blight, Assistant Professor of Communication

Campus Climate Study 
Princess Adams ’21
Dr. Suzanne Chod, Associate Professor of Political Science
Dr. Rebecca Gordon, Assistant Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Michael Longworth 
Dorothy Pleas, Assistant Dean of Students; Director of Multicultural Affairs
Dr. Nicole Rivera, Associate Professor of Psychology
Dr. Jennifer Shah, Assistant Professor of Education

Best wishes for a great semester!

Dorothy Pleas
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural Affairs
DEI Task Force co-chair

Dr. Stephen Maynard Caliendo
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Professor of Political Science
DEI Task Force co-chair