College appoints new director of diversity and inclusion

By Miguel Gonzalez
Sports Editor

The College has appointed Dr. Don Trahan Jr. to be the director of the newly established Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion within the Division of Student Affairs.

The Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion prioritizes building diversity, equity, access and inclusion within the College, according to Elizabeth Bapasola, the assistant vice president of Student Affairs. The director is tasked with executing initiatives to increase student inclusion on campus and collaborating with Academic Affairs to strengthen learning opportunities for students.

Trahan comes from Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he served as the director for the Office of Enterprise Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. For over a year, Trahan gained experience in fostering inclusivity.

“I developed and implemented an Enterprise Diversity Education Platform and I launched an enterprise-wide call to action (for example, the Inclusion Advocates) in order to foster inclusive excellence across the organization,” Trahan said.

According to Sidney Kimmel Medical College, a part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, the Office for Enterprise Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement collaborates with the Center for Urban Health and Pipeline Programs to “reduce health and education disparities, increase student body and faculty diversity, and promote an inclusive environment for the entire university.”

Because of his range of experience, Trahan feels prepared to tackle his new position at the College.

“To date, I have worked with and led various divisions that adhere to the needs of the campus community under the aegis of change management,” he said. “Specifically, I have endeavored to promote and create an inclusive climate within the institutions I have been affiliated, with an emphasis on systems thinking, which positions me to understand all from a holistic lens.”

In addition to his dedication to inclusivity and his emphasis on systems thinking, Trahan said he has established relationships “with key stakeholders and community liaisons in order to create pipelines and assess growth processes as necessary for the organization.”

By establishing these relationships, Trahan has developed skills that may aide in promoting diversity and inclusion policies at the College.

“Such engagements have significantly influenced my lens as a transformative leader, researcher, and subject matter expert,” he added. “As such, I have developed the expertise necessary to oversee all facets that relate to diversity and inclusion and organizational change management.”

As director of the College’s Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, Trahan will be responsible for advocating for marginalized students, overseeing the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Sustained Dialogue program, advising specific student groups and implementing a campus-wide diversity and inclusion curriculum in addition to other various responsibilities.

A big part of his role at the College also relates to creating and maintaining social justice, which he defines as “the manner in which we collectively recognize that all have civil liberties and basic human rights that should be upheld and honored, regardless of the intersection of one’s cultural identity.”

Trahan discussed how students can be proactive in achieving social justice.

“Like diversity and inclusion, social justice is not limited to racism and other social constructs but rather a framework to understand our society from a holistic lens,” he said. “In order to be proactive, we have to avoid being reactive. It means that we need to continue being mindful, at all times, that regardless if inequities directly impact us, we have a responsibility to speak up and hold each other accountable as a society.” 

The introduction of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion is part of the College’s strategic plan, TCNJ 2021: Bolder, Better, Brighter. Specifically, the office will help achieve the plan’s goals detailed in “Priority I: Attract and retain talented students, faculty, and staff into a diverse, inclusive, and healthy campus.”

According to the College’s Center for Institutional Effectiveness, in 2015, 4,405 white students accounted for the total undergraduate population of 6,758 students, or roughly 65 percent. In contrast, African American/Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, not reported, non-residential alien and students of two or more race accounted for 2,353 of the total undergraduate population, about 35 percent.        

Trahan is hopeful that the College’s Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion will make a profound impact on campus.

“I look forward to making history at TCNJ,” Trahan said. “I’m excited about fostering forward-thinking education, being innovative, and positioning TCNJ as a model for inclusive excellence in contemporary society. Most importantly, I look forward to being a beacon of support for the students at TCNJ, ensuring that equity is at the cornerstone for how we will be ‘bolder, better, and brighter’ as a campus community.”