Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
Note: This article was published before Christopher Whitt, PhD, Creighton's first vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, left his position at Creighton. Sarah Walker, PhD, is now the Interim Vice Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. But all other details regarding the National Black Alumni Advisory Board remain accurate.
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In February — Black History Month — the University's National Black Alumni Advisory Board will meet (virtually) for the first time.
Comprised of more than a dozen members, the board is both a culmination of a lot of work and another step in a larger mission of diversity and inclusion for the entire Creighton community.
"We're hoping that this serves as a good model for building up affinity groups for other groups of representation," says Christopher Whitt, PhD, Creighton's first vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. "This isn't the last stop."
We spoke with Whitt and Diane Glow, assistant vice president of Alumni and Parent Relations, about what the new group will mean for Creighton.
Are you interested in learning more about the Black Alumni Board?
How did this group get started?
Whitt: When I first got to Creighton, I was introduced to a number of Black alumni across the community. We started having conversations. We started asking, “What could we build that would stand the test of time?”
The first steps in doing that work started in 2018. In the summer of 2019, we hosted the first Black Alumni Gathering to coincide with the Native Omaha Days Festival in North Omaha. And that event was a great success.
Glow: We had seen that not many alumni of color were coming back to Reunion Weekend. So, we pulled together a group of Black alumni and asked what we're not offering. They told us they would come back for the Native Omaha Days, because when they were students, that community welcomed them to their homes, their churches, their barbecues. And hosting the Black Alumni Gathering to coincide with that festival allowed us to connect with many alumni we hadn't in the past.
That event and all of our following efforts have started with the act of listening to our alumni. Listening and hearing all of our alumni, whatever their background. Being more open and welcoming. We have not come far enough, and we've got a lot of work to do.
Why is it important that Creighton have a Black Alumni Board?
Whitt: For one, it builds a structure that can help hold this community together. It also reminds people that there is a Black presence at Creighton; that there are people who have gone to Creighton and still have interest and love for the institution.
Far too often the reality is that, particularly as Black people in America, when we go through advanced education, often our accomplishments tend to breed some isolation. When we talk about underrepresented communities, we have to be intentional in how we're going to bring people together and create a space that offers a potential for joy and comfort and connection.
With this group, we are also working to make sure we have strong lines of communication across the University when we're working with our students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as our alumni — all of us focusing on how we can engage people. It will be so beneficial for students to see these models of community.
How is the Black Alumni Board a part of Creighton's larger commitment to diversity and inclusion? How does this group help the University best meet the challenges and opportunities of this moment?
Whitt: One of the things we must do in any work across the University, particularly in light of our times, is to be brutally honest.
We can't go into things with rose-colored glasses. Let's be honest about why we may see less participation of Black alumni. What's the good, the bad and the ugly of your time at Creighton? What are the things that you're facing in a broader context?
We need to hear these things because we need to continually look at who we are and what we are as a University, to strive to be better and to never take our eye off of justice.
But beyond all those serious, heavy things, we also have to offer the possibly of people having a great time. It's important to care about justice, but we're also all human, and we need to have fun and we need to laugh. We need to connect.
NATIONAL BLACK ALUMNI ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
Bridget A. Hadley, BSBA'88, President
Brenda Warren Council, JD'77
Leonard D. Gordy
Abiola A. Kosoko, BA'09
The Honorable Darryl R. Lowe, JD'84
Terri D. McAlister-Sanders, BA'78
Shannon D. Melton, BS'09
Emily F. Miller, BS'75, MSEDU'78
Kayman A. Nixon, BSBA'17
John E. Pierce, MS'72, JD'81
Shawntal Mallory Smith, BA'97, JD'00