After the resignation of Octavio Villalpando last Spring Semester, the U’s Office for Equity and Diversity is landing back on its feet under the leadership of Kathryn Stockton.
Last spring there was a series of student sit-ins with U President David Pershing concerning comments made on diversity at the U, including rumors about the resignation of chief diversity officer Octavio Villalpando and professor Enrique Aleman. Stockton, a professor of English at the U, was chosen and supported by Villalpando to temporarily take his position. Since she took the position, she said major conflicts inside the Office for Equity and Diversity have been addressed.
Due to the number of resignations and the reaction of students, Stockton and Tricia Sugiyama, who replaced Aleman as associate vice president, say the office is working to show trust and collaboration.
“Education, growth and expanding skills are encouraged for all members of campus, not just students,” Sugiyama said.
Sugiyama said the success of the office came about by working with other offices and educating the staff, but most of the collaboration is because of Stockton.
“We want our colleagues to see how we’re working side by side and to see how strongly we value each other’s dedication and labor,” Stockton said.
Stockton’s passion is to hear the voices of students around her. Having directed the U’s gender studies program for 11 years and worked as an English professor, Stockton said she brought a sense of stability to the position.
Stockton’s job includes working with the university president’s cabinet to advance initiatives and reach out to underrepresented faculty and students. She said a challenge in the past has been fully supporting and representing diverse communities. She solved this by working with different groups at the U, including the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Admissions.
Since she replaced Villalpando in June, the office has completed 14 new initiatives, with 16 in the works and six more that will begin next semester. One initiative focuses on creating equality between students and faculty. Stockton and Ruth Watkins, the senior vice president for academic affairs, are about to launch a hiring initiative to foster a more diverse staff in all departments at the U.
“We have plenty of new ideas and changes to enact,” Stockton said. “They’ve been met with remarkable energy by my staff, advisors and directors.”
Brooke Jensen, a freshman in urban ecology, knew about last spring’s rumors and sit-ins and said Stockton’s and her colleague’s efforts have been worthwhile.
“It sounds like what she and the others are doing are things that will benefit everyone,” Jensen said. “Diversity is something that should be promoted at the U no matter what.”
Stockton’s stay will not be permanent, but the process to find someone to replace her has not yet begun. Stockton will return to teaching within this next year. Though she will be leaving, she said she took the position because of her dedication to the university.
“What I’ve found,” Stockton said, “is more vitality and human connection than I could have possibly foreseen.”