Through an equity lens

A new position on campus helps the college move toward a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

Meeghan Somerset
Administrative Executive Editor

Keene State is moving toward a more equity-focused experience and Kya Roumimper’s new role as Equity Education and Community Advocate Director will help guide the school in this direction.

Roumimper was formerly the Coordinator of Multicultural Student Support and Success and Equity Education. While her new role remains in the same office, she will focus more heavily on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) training for student leaders and student employees. This includes the student center employees, library employees, CAs (Community Assistants) and organization leaders.

“It’s about really focusing on students who are leading other groups or other students,” Roumimper said. “It’s really about having that comprehensive training program for them so when they are putting on programs or when they are engaging with their residents, or whatever it is, that they are engaging with an equity lens so that they can really start to understand their identity and their biases and how they interact with the world so that we can, together, create an environment that really allows us to really be authentic.”

Roumimper will not be entirely moving away from student support, although her goal is to aid students of color and create a support system for incoming students. This system will include upperclassmen, alumni, faculty and staff from throughout the school. She hopes to use this pathway to keep students connected to the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success. The office often runs programs, such as an annual leadership retreat, but they find it can be difficult to retain connections afterwards. In her new role, Roumimper said she wants to find pathways such as internships or grant funding that will keep as many students involved as possible.

“What we would like to do is encourage students to be involved with us as we continue,” Roumimper said. “As it stands now, the leadership retreat happens and students sometimes stay involved with us, but everybody finds their niche and they kind of spread out across campus. We love that, but we also would love to be able to feed some of that back into the office… Instead of just hoping that students stay involved, [we’re] finding really intentional ways to keep students in the cycle so that not only are we continuing to develop as an office, but our students are continuing to gain those skills and to cultivate those skills that are necessary to prepare for a career.”

It won’t just be students that are involved with the Office of Multicultural Student Support and Success that will see changes in the environment on campus. Roumimper said that she thinks many events, from Halloween celebrations to residential life programs, will be looked at in a way that encourages cultural humility. The students will have the training to face difficult conversations about topics such as race, gender and identity which will make them more aware of how they engage with the world. “I think we can have conversations around what the implications of things like cultural appropriation are,” Roumimper said. “What are the implications of programs that imply that this is the way a culture is represented? That is just an example, but the other hope is that it will become a more equitable place. So perhaps students and student leaders will begin to assess how they provide access to their programs, their organizations and their processes for other students.”

Through her partnerships with Associate Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Dottie Morris and Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ Students Hunter Kirschner, Roumimper is working to diffuse responsibility in terms of DEI training and operationalization. “ The hope is that by training other people, it helps diffuse responsibility. It’s not just this office that becomes central to doing DEI work,” Roumimper explained. “It’s about helping other departments and other divisions as they begin to build the skills so that they can then train their employees and engage in a way that is culturally responsive.”

Meeghan Somerset can be contacted at:
msomerset@kscequinox.com

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