Equity, diversity and inclusion are trending words in higher education and board rooms across the nation, but for Dania Matos, they are words that carry great weight and responsibility.
As UC Merced’s first chief diversity officer, Matos is driven by an authentic commitment to embody the true meaning of the words that are at the core of who she is and what she does. And she has not wasted any time making that known.
“While the sense of urgency is now in this work, it is important to be thoughtful as a campus leader,” she said. “That’s why, even though the start of the semester is hectic for everyone, our office has made it a priority to launch into an intentional structured listening phase taking place this semester.”
Those events, Drop-Ins With the Chief Diversity Officer and 2020 & Beyond: Building & Thinking Forward, are taking Matos on a tour of campus sites in Merced, Atwater and Fresno. It’ll mean a lot of time in the car, but Matos doesn’t know any other way to do the job she was hired to do.
“If I want to truly understand what our stakeholders are thinking, I am not going to sit in my campus office and wait for people to come to me,” she said. “I want to meet people where they are, and that means going out to where students gather, and where faculty and staff do their work.”
And she doesn’t plan to stop there. Starting in the spring, she’s turning her eyes to the greater Merced community and plans to hold similar feedback-gathering sessions open to the public.
Events to Gather Feedback From Faculty, Students and Staff
Drop-Ins With the Chief Diversity Officer, are exactly what the name implies: informal opportunities to meet with Matos and discuss priorities under the lens of equity, diversity and inclusion. The next drop-in sessions are 12:30-1:30 p.m. today (Sept. 24) at The Promenade in Conference Room A, and 3 to 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, at the Downtown Campus Center, Room 370.
2020 & Beyond: Building & Thinking Forward, on the other hand, is a series of structured listening sessions focused on three key themes: Building Belonging, Building Excellence and Building Together. The first session, Building Belonging, will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in the Crescent Arch Room (Half Dome Residence Hall).
Both have been intentionally designed, Matos said, to paint a comprehensive picture of current and aspirational culture here at UC Merced. Dates for both event series are listed online.
“Just as everyone is different, we all have different needs when it comes to feeling comfortable sharing our opinions and perspectives,” she said. “Offering informal and structured sections offers people the chance to participate according to their own comfort levels.”
But the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion hasn’t stopped there.
If I want to truly understand what our stakeholders are thinking, I am not going to sit in my campus office and wait for people to come to me. I want to meet people where they are and that means going out to where students gather, and where faculty and staff do their work.
Start Conversations on Twitter or Submit Feedback Online
The office is now on Twitter at @ucmdiversity, where campus stakeholders can look forward to seeing hosted Twitter chats and invitations for direct conversation. The office’s official hashtag is #UCMercedDiversity, and Matos encourages anyone with a vested interest in the campus and her office’s work to use the hashtag in their tweets. #UCMercedForward will be used during the structured listening phase to engage the online community.
The updated office website also hosts an online feedback form for those who prefer to contribute to the conversation in an anonymous way.
“Being part of a research university means constantly looking at ways to develop communally minded thinkers and leaders who can envision, create, and enact new and better worlds.” Matos said. “That creates an individual and collective responsibility to become transformative practitioners who operate through an intersectional equity asset-based approach. I will do everything within my power to foster an environment for productive conversations, and I look forward to developing priorities based on those conversations.”