North Central News

President Thomas Holds Roundtable on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Conversation takes center stage during inauguration weekend

Jan 09, 2024

As part of the weekend celebrating the inauguration of President Anita Thomas, the North Central campus community was invited to attend a panel discussion around the question: “How do you open doors wider to foster a culture of excellence?”

Held at Meiley-Swallow Hall on November 10, the event featured panelists William Davis ’71, president of the North Central College African American Alumni Association; De’Jah Phillips ’23, a graduate assistant in the North Central College Office of Multicultural Affairs and former co-president of the North Central College Black Student Association; Dr. OiYan Poon, co-director of the College Admissions Futures Co-Laborative; Patrick Watson ’08, president of the DuPage County NAACP; and Dr. Geneace Williams, the diversity, equity, and inclusion manager for the City of Naperville. Dr. Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at North Central, served as the moderator. 

The panelists shared personal stories and provided unique perspectives on a number of topics, including immersing oneself in others’ experiences to gain greater understanding; looking beyond labels like racial orientation to see individuals as distinct people; and the importance of seeing from other points of view in conversations about diversity—within communities and in higher education.  

“In order to properly engage in diverse spaces, we need to be willing to challenge our perspectives and what we believe—change where you're seeing things in your worldview to make sure that you're making room for other perspectives, insights and worldviews that are different than your own,” Phillips said.  

Another prevalent theme was identity. “You are, I am, the sum of every aspect of what makes us unique—a uniqueness that shapes experience perhaps over our entire lives,” said Williams. “And when we fail to give one's full identity a seat at the table for critical dialogue and participation, we fail humanity.” 

President Thomas concluded the event with a note of appreciation for the panel and a pledge to continue discussion about DEIB at North Central.

"As I think about what role diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging will continue to play at North Central, the beginning part of that is just what we did today. It is the importance of dialogue—conversation and communication,” she said.

“We won't go anywhere without our ability to listen, especially when we don't feel like we're an expert, and especially when we feel like we've made a mistake. Listening, which I think is the first step in curiosity, should lead us to be engaged, and help us be ethical, purposeful citizens and leaders in local, national and global contexts.” 

Panelists from the roundtable at President Anita Thomas' inauguration.

Left to right: William Davis, Dr. Geneace Williams, De'Jah Phillips, President Antia Thomas, Dr. OiYan Poon, and Patrick Watson.