Leading with Creativity and Commitment
By Markella Paradissis-Wagner ’22
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is a cornerstone of Ringling College of Art and Design – through the computer screen or in-person. As Associate Dean of Students and Director of the CDI, Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez (ze/zir/zirs) experiments with creative approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, especially during this unique year.
“How can we, as scholars and artists, take what we learn from one another and make conscious choices about how we interact with different communities to ensure we’re being inclusive and responsible stewards?” Rosario-Hernandez asks.
The Reel Talk series is one way. In this series, the CDI shows a film then hosts an open, guided discussion on its themes and surrounding issues. This semester, the films, which included Kiki (2017), were played on Zoom and centered around race and identity. Another way is the CDI’s Queer Dialogue series, which allows participants to explore dating and self-love in a safe and supported environment.
Going beyond Ringling College, the CDI addressed racial tension in the community with the InDialogue series, discussing the global impact of slavery and race within the context of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter (BLM). The CDI also hosted a BLM support space on Zoom for students, faculty, and alumni of color to talk and find solidarity. This space later opened to allies.
In addition to collaborating with New College’s Race, Power, and Politics speaker series, the CDI partnered with Rutgers University-Newark and New College to create Community Healing Spaces, which is still available online. The institutions worked with artists across the U.S. to host numerous events around social issues, such as workshops on health and wellness; opportunities for dialogue on various issues; sessions to build skills in arts, parenting, and resiliency, among other areas; support for numerous groups; and COVID-19 resources.
This past semester’s dialogues laid the foundation for Spring 2021, which will examine societal issues in even more depth. The CDI will focus on global perspectives and develop additional professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.
Rosario-Hernandez carries lessons from all zir previous experiences, including zir role as the director of the LGBTQ+ and Intercultural Resource Center at Rutgers University. Ze believes the CDI’s success is a collective endeavor of educators, staff, and students committed to the Center.
“I really love the fact that I have students who are willing to experiment and try new things. My exposure to different types of programs and institutions has allowed me to guide our Center right now to see what’s working and what’s not so that we can continue to adapt,” Rosario-Hernandez explains.
Ze recognizes the challenges of connecting with students in an online setting, such as Zoom fatigue. The CDI embraces online and safe, in-person outreach. For the Trans Day of Remembrance, the CDI placed candles and chalkboards across campus, memorializing the names of transgender victims, along with the option of attending an online event.
Support, though, isn’t limited to a computer screen. Togetherness isn’t limited to one location. The CDI creates connections across campus and the globe, reflecting the resiliency of Ringling College students, faculty, and staff
“Resiliency is an empowerment. It’s an ancestral connection. It’s walking on the shoulders of giants,” Rosario-Hernandez reflects. “When I hear the word resiliency, I think about the commitment to leaving this world a better place for my children and the legacies that they’re going to work on to build peace.”