To get insights for the student body, BORSC member Guadalupe Guerrero ’21 regularly meets with Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and PLT member (as well as Taylor Center Director) María Pabón Gautier. PLT is the Presidential Leadership Team of St. Olaf College, learn more here. Submit your own questions here.
María is originally the Director of the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, but has recently become the Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion in addition. In conversation, she has stated that she will take the next three to four months to “feel out” the position, its demands, and the work atmosphere surrounding it. With the great amount of additional tasks that the new position bears, her original office, the Taylor Center, had to shift responsibilities among its employees. They also hired a new employee, recent St. Olaf graduate Lupe R. ’20. María hopes that this shift will allow for more professional development of her team.
As the Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, María wants to make the president’s office a more accessible place to underrepresented students and create a comfortable atmosphere in which they feel comfortable coming in. There will be new paid positions for students to be conversation leaders on community dialogue. She will work to center student voices and recruit for different positions for the next year to continue the work, with a guiding question being “where do we invest our time?”
Overall, she wants to shift the focus and turn the Vice President’s job into one that is not held by a singular person, but a group of people – ideally, everyone.
As the VP for Equity and Inclusion, María is also now the head of the Council for Equity and Inclusion and the Bias Response team. Other than that, one of María’s main tasks is to follow through on the equity and inclusion plan, as set out by her predecessor Bruce King. Phase 1, which was the anti-racism training, aimed to focus on education, community, and accountability by creating a common language in order to then have dialogue. In phase 2, the focus is on co-creating an inclusive community. Safety should be a given for all on campus, and in the process, layers of community and positionality need to be acknowledged. As she thinks about community healing, María points out “that campus is a reflection of the world we live in.”
María will now be physically present in the Taylor Center on Mondays and in the President’s Office on Tuesdays. The rest of the week, she is working online.
f you have any questions you would like to brought to María Pabón Gautier or any of the PLT members, you can submit them here.