Column: Five semesters of covering diversity and inclusion initiatives at COD


Hannah Davis (Photo Editor)

COD’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager David Swope

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

College of DuPage (COD) is a community college that attracts students from diverse backgrounds every year. To improve the cultural environment for all students, COD, through Student Affairs, established the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion (CSDI) in 2014.

The center has been around for four years. After covering programs under the auspices of the center for five semesters, I decided to take a look at how far we’ve come as a college when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

With a black student population of about 1,800 students, that’s about 7 percent of COD’s population, CSDI was established to “develop, implement and evaluate programs and services that support our African-American Student population in their personal and academic growth and development throughout their experiences at COD.”

“We began by building an African-American club,” said David Swope, manager of the college’s diversity and inclusion office. “Now the Black Student Alliance (BSA), the club grew under the leadership of former Student Trustee Gloria Roark. Since then, the club has seen about 50 members at any given point in time.”

The BSA has been involved with a cultural awareness series around COD. Currently, the alliance is running a book drive to give people who have been released from prisons the opportunity to become productive members of society. Led by Lailah Williams, the drive has been a success.

The college has overwhelmingly supported the efforts of the BSA, according to Swope. Since the inception of BSA, the cultural and ethnic club has led relevant conversations about diversity and inclusion at COD. Recently, BSA spearheaded a conversation with campus police about the noise complaints in the atrium.

“The CSDI creates an environment that fosters the advancement and development of how we see and accept diversity within our community,” said BSA President Veronica Williams.

The CSDI has also supported other groups on campus, such as the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Feminist Alliance.

In line with one of its goals, the CSDI has been able to organize events that benefit students and everyone at COD. For two years, the diversity and inclusion series brought together multicultural students and staff to explore how COD can better celebrate, learn and teach about the diversity in its halls and classrooms.

In 2016, Damon Williams, a nationally-respected diversity expert, was on campus and challenged COD faculty and administrators to push the college’s diversity plan beyond enrollment. In 2017, Eddie Moore from The Privilege Institute (TPI) called on students to have the skills needed to deal with issues related to diversity and inclusion in the 21st Century.

COD’s annual observance of Black History Month is one of the highly anticipated celebrations of the year. From great musical performances by Lee R. Kesselman and the music department, to cultural performances by the African-American Dance Institute (AADI), students from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate the impact of African-Americans in history.

Working along with the enrollment and outreach department at COD, the CSDI has been able to participate in college fairs within the Chicagoland area. CSDI has tabled at the “100 Black Men of Chicago” college fairs over the years. The fair is one of the largest of its kind in Illinois. Over the years, COD has been selected to make presentations to students about the benefits of attending a community college.

Finally, the CSDI is looking forward to implementing a student success profile initiative. The plan is to liaise with the Latino Ethnic Awareness Association (LEAA) and help students improve their academic performance. Students will be required to write out an academic plan. CSDI will then use services at the college to work along with the students to achieve their plan.

The CSDI has received tremendous support from the administration at COD. The future looks bright. “Diversity” and “inclusion” aren’t just buzzwords at this college. Programs and initiatives will continue to support students from all walks of life.