TaQuilla Kusero is the Director of Equity and Engagement for Schoolcraft College, working collaboratively across the campus to integrate equitable practices into the very fabric of the College. A key focus is the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) strategic theme, which will have a launch event from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 27, in the DiPonio Room of the Vistatech Center. Please read the following interview to learn more about TaQuilla, her office and her objectives.
Q: To start, please tell us a little about your education and professional background, especially your positions at Schoolcraft College.
A: In over a decade of working in higher education, I have worked with underrepresented and historically excluded populations at Lawrence Tech University, The United Negro College Fund in Washington D.C., and the University of Baltimore, along with the last four years at Schoolcraft College in the Distance Learning department. I have owned and operated a wedding and event floral design company, and I’m a part of a former military family, who worked and traveled abroad in Okinawa, Japan; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and across the U.S., exchanging language and culture. It is really a full-circle moment in my journey to have the opportunity to work with the SC campus community as the new Director of Equity and Engagement.
See, I was a child who suffered from an autoimmune condition that caused total hair loss, leg and joint pain, fatigue and facial rashes that left me in and out of the medical system for a large part of my childhood from the age of 7. I wouldn’t have successfully remained engaged in school, and found my joy in supporting students, if it weren’t for the empathetic and caring teachers, family and community surrounding me.
Even as I dealt with both the very visible symptoms of the condition, and the non-visible pains that made it hard to walk some days, it was the empowering words and actions of the people around me that kept me going and led me to the diversity, equity and inclusion work I do today: Specifically standing up for those who are not able to do it themselves. It was through overcoming the fear and uncertainty of what might be before me that I have been able to embrace and lead change throughout my life.
Q: You were named our College’s Director of Equity and Engagement (DEE) in May. First, could you briefly explain your roles and responsibilities in this department? And second, what’s been your focus for the past few months as the Fall 2022 semester gets under way?
A: My role as Director of Equity and Engagement is to work collaboratively across the campus to integrate equitable practices into the very fabric of our institution. This will include developing and utilizing researched strategies, collaborating with stakeholders to set goals, providing professional development and training, and measuring progress. The last few months have involved meeting with stakeholders and laying out a plan to build a systematic approach to collaboration and integration in those areas. We have also been involved in matters of educational reform and development that have begun this summer for the Schoolcraft campus.
Q: Could you briefly explain IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) from both a high level and what it means on a sort of day-to-day basis for the Schoolcraft College community?
A: The overall goals of IDEA are:
- To create practitioners of equity and inclusion across campus departments, with each department trained to view and implement their work with a DEI lens.
- To create a student base that is engaged in equity and justice efforts on campus and in their community.
- To track our progress with campus culture, practice and policy changes on a yearly basis.
IDEA provides five (5) key objectives to guide us in reaching those goals:
- Strategic Objective 1 – Enhance Access and Success – Enhancing access and success for students, faculty, and staff belonging to structurally excluded populations.
- Strategic Objective 2 – Inclusive Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship – Devote resources, promote, and incentivize practices that further enhance the teaching, learning and scholarship to ensure that the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion are essential components of a Schoolcraft educational experience.
- Strategic Objective 3 – Cultural Engagement and Competency – Promote active social and academic engagement to ensure that we center and amplify students’ needs and voices by continuously elevating cultural and intercultural competency in and out of the classroom setting.
- Strategic Objective 4 – Accountability and Responsibility – Develop mechanisms to continuously assess institutional climate and promote responsibility to a socially responsible Schoolcraft College.
- Strategic Objective 5 – Fostering Community – Engage in practices that build relationships and partnerships to ensure the sustainability of Schoolcraft College within the greater Livonia community
What that looks like on the ground level is:
- Creating classrooms, curriculums, and workplaces that include, affirm and utilize the knowledge, perspectives and experiences of underrepresented and marginalized students and employees.
- Using high-impact practices and frameworks to reform the educational experience from recruitment to graduation, to meet the needs of students.
- Measuring and collecting quantitative and qualitative information that not only helps us identify where we are in the process of institutionalizing equitable and inclusive practices, but also guides us in how to measure our progress, challenges and create solutions along the way.
Q: What’s on the horizon and what are you looking to accomplish the rest of this semester/calendar year?
A: The rest of this year will be spent building the campuses capacity to create widespread, integrated changes through the establishment of collaborative advisory groups and liaisons to each department. There also will be four areas of focus we will be working on in conjunction with other departments on campus, including:
- Identifying practices and policies that have a disparate impact on marginalized and underrepresented people on campus in order to change them.
- Developing professional and training opportunities that cover IDEA frameworks and practices, developing learning communities that provide ongoing support, and creating programming to discuss and share solutions for issues that affect us locally, nationally, and globally.
- Engage students through leadership development and scholarship opportunities for students who are interested in engaging the campus community in meaningful conversations and activities around topics of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice.
- Making evidenced based decisions based on research and feedback.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: Creating a more inclusive campus is the job of every person in our community, no matter your role or area of expertise. We will be working closely with faculty, departments, students, and groups on campus to integrate strategies moving ahead. We also can be reached at [email protected] if you want to be directly involved in other opportunities throughout the year. We hope that you join us at the IDEA Launch on Tuesday, September 27, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to hear more about the imperatives of equity and inclusion in higher education, as well as have an opportunity to bring your voices and perspectives to the table as we forge ahead.