Q&A: chief diversity officer Andrea Herrera describes vision for inclusion

February 13, 2018

Sarah Bubke

sbubke@uccs.edu

     On Jan. 2, Andrea Herrera, former director of the Women’s and Ethnic Studies Program, was named associate vice chancellor of inclusion and academic affairs.

   Herrera, who has been at UCCS for 19 years, replaces Kee Warner, who previously held the position when it was known as the associate vice chancellor of inclusion and diversity. Stephany Rose, associate professor of WEST, takes Herrera’s place as director starting this semester. However, Herrera said that she will still be teaching in the program.

     “I am so delighted to be in this position, and to be able serve the campus and the community in this way, and I hope that I can do some good things in this office,” she said.

    Herrera sat down with The Scribe to discuss her position, her vision and her career so far at the university.

 

How long have you worked at UCCS?

    I came from a university in New York (in 1999) to help take over an ethnic studies minor. So, we didn’t even have women’s and ethnic studies; we had a women’s studies minor and an ethnic studies minor.

    The following year, in 2000, Abby Ferber (full professor, WEST) took over Women’s Studies, and we joined forces because our approach to social justice is much broader than just looking at race and gender; it’s what we would call an intersectional approach.

    We work together across the campus. We had a lot of allies and support to create an ethnic studies major and program and we started up (The Matrix Center for Social Equity and Inclusion) together.

 

What are some of the courses that you teach?

    I teach all of our core courses in WEST. My Ph.D. is in literature, and I am a creative writer. I also worked, for a period of time, as a freelance artist. I’m not a trained artist ,but I worked in art. So, I teach a lot of courses that deal with cultural expression.

    Both in literature and art, and if I have a specialty, it would be especially U.S. latino/latina literature. But I also teach our post-millennial studies courses. I also teach courses on autobiography in art and literature. I also teach courses on the Caribbean. I do a lot of work with that because of my family.

    My ethnic heritage is Irish and Cuban. So, I do a lot on the Cuban diaspora. I look at those writers and artists. So, sometimes I cross those courses with VAPA and not just with W.E.S.T.

 

What does the associate vice chancellor of Inclusion and Academic Affairs do?

    Before, the focus was primarily on bringing a more diverse vision to faculty, staff and students. By adding academic affairs, the job has a bigger scope, which means that I would be working across the campus and also in the community.

    That was something else that was added. To help folks who are working on diversity initiatives and programing, events and curriculum, to help them and support them in doing their jobs. So, it’s a much more holistic vision of what this office should do. The emphasis is on inclusion, so that’s in sync with what my vision is for the office.

 

How do you think that your new position will benefit UCCS students?

    The mission of any university or college is to serve students and to help give them the skills that they need to become better global citizens that’s really what our democratic mission is. That’s my primary focus.

    Ultimately, my hope is that it serves and benefits students, because that’s my focus, the students. I’m going to continue to teach in this role because what I love most in life is teaching and working with students. That’s why I do what I do. Everything that this office does, all of the support that I will be lending to other groups on campus, departments and programs will all be student focused.

 

What is your vision for the office?

    I’ve been training for the past couple of years in restorative practice. If you look up restorative justice, you’ll see that it’s actually an indigenous practice. And, the focus is on restoring community, reintegrating people into the community, and building relationships and trust based on not just civility but with dignity and kindness.

    It’s a very inclusive vision of what dignity and inclusiveness and diversity means. Under my leadership and (Abby Ferber’s), we kind of built this vision of social justice and working toward human rights. That’s the vision that I want to bring to this. It’s just kind of stepped up to a bigger scale, but that’s the focus that I want to bring to our campus.

    I want to celebrate and honor all of the work that is being done. We have a wonderful campus. I mean, our faculty, staff and students are amazing. And, we have an amazing community. The work that is being done in our community, if you even just take a glance at the nonprofits in our community, you’ll see what I mean. We live in a very wonderful place. I want to celebrate the work that’s being done, and I want to help build on that work and pull people together and connect people and support them in the wonderful work that they are doing.

    That includes everybody. That includes staff, and students, because a lot of times, these programs only focus on faculty. This position focuses on all of those three groups along with the Colorado Springs community at large and the front range community.

 

How can students contact you if they have any questions or concerns?

    They can either call me and leave me a message if I don’t respond. My school number is 255-4001. Or, email me.

    I don’t plan on just sitting still. I move around a lot.

    One of the things that I am hoping to do is put together a student steering committee that is really representative across the colleges and includes graduate and undergraduate students.

    I’ve been in this job a little more than a week, so I’m just beginning, but that’s one of my hopes – to get some guidance because I’m a listener.

    I don’t assume that I know what students need or what they want, and I don’t assume that I know what is the best way to support them, so I listen.

    I am already working with some of the student groups. I’m hoping that students do contact me, and I welcome all kinds of ideas, information and suggestions.

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