Ridgewater announces new DEI director and social justice speaker series open to the public
January 19, 2022
Diversity awareness, multicultural relationship building and student support have been passions and priorities for Ridgewater College’s Jehana Schwandt for nearly nine years. Schwandt is now taking those priorities to a new level as the newly appointed director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
Schwandt knows Ridgewater and its communities well, having served as an academic advisor and part-time diversity officer and Multicultural Club advisor for years, as well as recent interim DEI director.
“Jehana has done a great job in her interim role and she is well-qualified to lead our DEI work on a long-term basis,” said Ridgewater College President Dr. Craig Johnson. “We are excited to have her move into this vital role for our College and the communities we serve.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to build on the work I was previously doing with Ridgewater and our communities by focusing even more on building partnerships and developing programs and initiatives aimed at supporting all of our community members and their unique identities,” Schwandt said.
In her new role, she will transition from working primarily with students to a broader focus of supporting Ridgewater’s strategic DEI efforts and the Minnesota State Equity 2030 initiatives. “I will work hard to ensure that each student, employee and community member has a genuine opportunity for participation and success,” Schwandt said.
In her position, Schwandt will lead a new unit that will incorporate Disability Services, TRIO student support services for underserved populations, and community resources to help meet student basic needs. She’ll also advise international students and manage services for military and veteran students.
To bridge the college family with Ridgewater’s neighboring communities through broader diversity awareness, Schwandt and her DEI office are launching several spring virtual social justice speakers beginning January 19. All presentations will be via Zoom and are free and open to the public with registration.
“My hope is that our social justice series will help us honor the history and cultures of our community members while also providing opportunities for us to grow and learn together,” Schwandt said. (Note: All sessions will be recorded. Look for links at https://ridgewater.edu/about/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/.)
Spring Social Justice Virtual Zoom Series:
Wed., January 19, 12-1 p.m.: “Unity, Service, Justice,” with Dr. Artika Tyner. Dr. Tyner will share her insight on creating unity in our community through service and provide those who wish to join the fight for social, racial, and economic justice with the necessary tools to advance social justice. Attendees will gain awareness and understand how our biases influence us, develop skills where we can learn to work more effectively in diverse groups and build tools and confidence for advancing social justice awareness.
Sponsoring schools: Minnesota State – Office of DEI, Ridgewater College, Northland Community & Technical College, Century College, Lake Superior College, Hennepin Technical College, Anoka Ramsey Community College, Anoka Technical College, Central Lakes College, Saint Paul College, Riverland Community College, Minnesota State Southeast, Alexandria College.
Tues., January 25, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: “The Holocaust,” with survivor Peter Gorog. This 30-minute interview between this courageous survivor and a US Holocaust Memorial Museum staff member will end with time for audience questions. Approximately 6 million European Jews died during this World War II genocide.
Tues., February 15, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: To celebrate Black History Month, Ridgewater College will host a forum with black professionals from across Minnesota. Hear panelists share their trials and triumphs, and personal impact of what Black History Month means to them.
Tues., March 15, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: “Tactile the World: A Deafblind Woman’s Journey,” with Christine “Coco” Roschaert (she/her/Elle). An avid traveler, Coco has experienced 62 countries. To embark on these worldwide adventures, Roschaert has had to rely on her instinct, experience, challenges and resources to navigate the globe as a DeafBlind woman using a blind-cane and tactile sign language. This presentation will be in American Sign Language with voice interpretation.
Thurs., March 24, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: “Understanding Somali Culture,” with Hudda Ibrahim, author of “From Somalia to Snow” and “What Color is My Hijab?” As a faculty member at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, Ibrahim specializes in diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, and unconscious bias. Ibrahim is a certified trainer and recipient of the prestigious Bush Foundation Fellowship (2019) and an Initiators Fellowship from the Greater Minnesota Initiative Foundation (2017). She will clarify diversity, equity, inclusion, and unconscious bias; share how different cultures impact communication, discuss specific needs of Somali students; share language and communication styles and ways to bridge the communication gap; and explore religion, spirituality, and Islamic dietary laws.
For more information about Ridgewater’s DEI efforts, go to https://ridgewater.edu/about/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/