D’Andre Fisher, North’s Associate Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion may be new, but he is known to make sure his voice is heard on campus. Under his guidance, a new Equity and Welcome Center at NSC is in the works to open this year. Fisher said the need for an Equity and Welcome Center has been a priority of his since he began his job in July. I sat down with Fisher in his office to uncover more information about the new welcome center, the planning process, and his hopes for our community.
I find my way through the labyrinth of administrative offices on the second floor of the College Center building, passing right by President Warren Brown himself. D’Andre noted on his first day (and has reiterated with the plans for the new Equity and Welcome Center) that he must be in the President’s line of sight everyday so that his work is known.
As I walk through the opening of the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity space, a yellow object is catches the corner of my eye. Sure enough, I turn to see D’Andre in his yellow hat. Bright yellow is also the background of the EDI signage that welcomes visitors into this space. Fisher is smiling and quickly assures me that he will see me in just a minute. Almost always do I encounter D’Andre on campus with a snazzy outfit and an inviting smile. He welcomes me into his office where I am free to sit anywhere. Tones of blue and grey are casted over the office through the windows that showcase Seattle’s infamous rain.
Acuna: What do you say is the purpose of having a new Equity Center, as opposed to our current one?
Fisher: So this is an Equity and Welcome Center, which would be the difference compared to what’s already established with the [current] equity center. So this one is geared towards really focusing on the welcoming of all, in having a sense of belonging. It’s going to be the focus, meaning that there are no binary restraints to this work, no gender restraints to this work, really being open, for all religions, all people, all backgrounds, all social statuses, and really focusing on how we make sure that every student, faculty, and staff member feels like North Seattle College is a place that they can call home, and have a sense of belonging.
Acuna: I received the plans for the welcoming center (which includes spaces for undocumented students, LGBTQ students, and prayer). Will these be the identities it will serve there and the rooms it will contain?
Fisher: Nothing is set in stone yet. We will take a year of really evaluating what the need is. We do know that the multicultural center will be there. We do know that the Gender Equity center will be in there. And from there we’re working with other groups to really self identify what will be in there. We do want to have some space for faculty members to be able to come and meet with students. We do want to have space for prayer and meditation to happen, so you know, there’s a lot of wants, but what it actually looks like, that’s not on me to determine, it’s on the campus and the community to determine.
Acuna: When did all this planning and envisioning of the space happen?
Fisher: I started thinking about this in July. It was literally one of the first things to think about. The president charged me to really come under his leadership to try to create a space where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Like I said, it’s going to be six months of just flushing down ideas, talking to key faculty members, key staff members, and key students. You know, more talking still needs to happen, so that’s why nothing is set in stone because I want to be very transparent. I don’t want anyone to feel like we’re moving on without hearing about different voices...so speaking with our veterans, student association, and you know, thinking about what we can do there. I just met last week with the new director of disability services about how we can partner and still always be partnering with international studies. I’m very excited about Ann taking on the new role, but I was really close in partnering with the former director Kathy Lee, so I wanna make sure we still have those components. And then of course, I meet with Student Leadership almost every other week I feel like! And I’m down there almost every other day! So I’m making sure that the student voice is heard.
Acuna: Would you say that working with everyone and listening to what this school has to offer is the best part about this process?
Fisher: Ab-so-lutely. Aw, you’re right! You hit it right on the head! It definitely is.
Acuna: Besides the planning, what are your hopes for this Equity and Welcome Center?
Fisher: My hopes are that within the matter of a year, the Equity and Welcome Center becomes a true hub for the college campus and the surrounding community, where there are multiple identities, multiple races, multiple religions, and multiple people from different backgrounds. And able bodies, everybody just hanging out, and really learning from each other. You know, this is a space where we can all learn from each other and ask questions...and be open to those questions! And you know, talk politics, but in a respectful manner, so if we can do it, man that would be amazing! I would really love to see that. And I know we have it here at North! So, I’m excited. And, working with the Art department in the Equity Center and seeing beautiful art done by our students. I’m getting excited now! It’s so tempting, you got me envisioning!
Acuna: What do you say to people that aren’t in support of the new Equity Center?
Fisher: To give us a chance. To give it a chance. We may not do everything according to the way that they see it should be done, and we may not do everything right the first time. But show us grace in this work because we all need grace in this equity, diversity, and inclusion work. And that’s going to be important. We all come at it at different levels. And we’re all not at the same level, so just as we need grace, and we’re showing grace, we want everyone to be the same way.
North Seattle College’s new Equity and Welcome Center plans to open on March 1.
Heidi Grace Acuña
Student Cabinet Member