No one knows that better than Allison Davis-White Eyes, who has devoted her career to building relationships among students, staff and faculty to strengthen communities on campus and beyond. Since joining Oregon State in 2000, Davis White-Eyes has served in several roles, including coordinator of the Indian Education Program, director of Intercultural Student Services, assistant vice provost for Student Affairs and director of Diversity and Cultural Engagement (DCE). She recently took on a new role as director of community diversity relations in the Office of Institutional Diversity. Find out more about her vision for Oregon State’s future below.
Q: What brought you to Oregon State?
I really wanted to come to OSU to work because I had met so many amazing people as I traveled around the state at different conferences and community events. I was so impressed with the camaraderie Oregon State representatives had. The way they interacted with the community was really authentic and genuine, and that was something that really drew me here. I would say coming here was an opportunity to be in an institution that really values the people of the state of Oregon and the notion of community.
Q: What are your responsibilities as the new director of community diversity relations?
The position is designed to build up Oregon State’s relationships with underrepresented communities by collaborating with school districts, business and industry partners and governmental agencies like Oregon tribes. More importantly, these collaborations will give Oregon State a higher resolution and create opportunities and pathways for students in those communities to come to OSU. I will also be working to identify the needs and interests of each community and determining how OSU can use its technical, research and faculty expertise to advance each of their goals.
Q: What do you envision for the future of OSU?
I see an institution that will become ever more nimble in our responses to global, national and state trends. For example, we can expect the mass migration of people all over the world to continue — and even increase. The mobility of people and cultures enriches all of us on a local and even national level by enhancing our research outcomes, economy and more. In addition, the demographics of our country will continue to shift. It’s imperative for the institution to review and take all of these changes into account through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. And I think we are already ahead of the curve.
Q: What would a just and inclusive campus look like and how can we get there?
A just and inclusive campus is one that is welcoming and nurtures a sense of belonging and a sense that everyone matters. Coupled with this sense of community and belonging is the ability to identify where there are challenges and to address those challenges in meaningful and intentional ways that lead to creating a just environment. This is not easy because it means confronting inconvenient truths with courage and creativity. Currently, OSU is setting the foundation to move us in that direction. We have a thriving Difference, Power and Discrimination program in the curriculum. We’re the only institution in the nation to have seven stand-alone cultural resource centers. And we are committed to ensuring diversity is embedded throughout the institution.
Q: How has Oregon State evolved since you first started working here?
It’s amazing to see the amount of change that has taken place on this campus. When I first came here, we had about 15,000 students, and now we have over 30,000. Back then I rarely saw international students or students of color. Now I can walk across campus and hear all manners of languages and accents — a very rich diversity of people that wasn’t here in the early 2000s. Coupled with that, President Ray’s vision and commitment to creating a just and inclusive culture are exemplified through his dedication to rebuilding the cultural resource centers. We have rebuilt the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, the Native American Longhouse, the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center and the Centro Cultural César Chávez. We also added the Ettihad Cultural Center and are in the process of revamping the Pride Center. We’ve hired more faculty and staff from communities of different cultures. It’s a reflection of our commitment to creating a culture where people and diversity are valued and a true community of people continue to be dedicated to seeing the potential in humanity.
Q: What is your vision for the future of the Office of Institutional Diversity?
I’m really excited for the Office of Institutional Diversity because we have an amazing leader in our new vice president and chief diversity officer, Dr. Charlene Alexander. She is incredible, brilliant and energetic — and brings ideas that help shift our gaze in new ways. My colleagues have talents in areas that are all critical right now: the ability to engage in difficult dialogue, to have a depth of understanding about inclusivity and to be able to share that understanding with others around campus. We will always have challenges, but I don’t think they are insurmountable. We have enough creative minds on campus. We are committed to making justice and inclusivity a cornerstone for OSU.