Coming Together Weekend creates discussion about advances for diversity and inclusion on campus


Coming Together Weekend focused on the celebration of the construction for the Justin and Darrianne Christian Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the advances DePauw is making towards responding to bias incidents on campus, as well as the importance of a liberal arts education.

The weekend began on Saturday morning with conversations with President Mark McCoy, and he began the dialogue by discussing how society has been questioning the worth of a college education. “I think we’re now at the point where society really questions a college education at all and they certainly question a private college education and they certainly question a liberal arts education, and we’re all three of those things,” President McCoy said.

Considering the questionability of a college education, President McCoy has been brainstorming ways to make DePauw more relevant in today’s society. “What we’re beginning to think about is how do we prove DePauw’s relevance and pertinence in the world today,” President McCoy said.

Approximately 93-95 percent of students know what they are doing after college by graduation. President McCoy stated that most universities would be thrilled with this turnout, however, “DePauw said, what about the other 5 or 6 percent? What do we do about that?” President McCoy said.

President McCoy regarded how the world is rapidly changing, but a liberal arts education is “timeless.” “So if the world is changing this fast, teaching you what to think is probably not the way to go, teaching you how to think and how to think quickly and critically and creatively seems to be the answer,” President McCoy said.

Following President McCoy’s talk, a panel of President’s cabinet members formed an open panel, which allowed alumni to ask questions about diversity and inclusion, and how DePauw is taking initiative regarding these variables. The panel members included President McCoy, Vice President of Academic Excellence Anne Harris, Title IX Coordinator Renee Madison, Vice President of Student Academic Life Alan Hill, Associate Vice President for Student Academic Life and Dean of Academic Life Dave Berque, Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Melanie Norton, and Chief of Staff Cindy Babington.

Many questions from alumni were about the bias incident that took place in a residence hall earlier this year, and how the University plans on responding to bias incidents in the future. President McCoy said that the cabinet responded very quickly to this specific bias incident, and that the University as a whole is working on being transparent about bias incidents with both its current students and alumni.

President McCoy believed that he and his cabinet responded as quickly as possible to the bias incident during early September. “As I recall it was on Tuesday afternoon and we sent yet another one on Thursday morning or Wednesday night maybe trying to be very transparent about look these are the challenges that we face,” President McCoy said. “I think that trying to sweep anything under the rug is the wrong way to do it we need to own our past and we need to own our present and we need to say these are the challenges right before us.”

Following President McCoy’s conversation with alumni was the Keynote Speaker, Ms. Tamika Nordstrom, an accomplished practicing attorney who graduated from DePauw in 1993.

Nordstrom discussed throughout her speech both the importance of mentorship and how the adversity she faced during her time at DePauw has prepared her for dealing with adversity outside of DePauw, specifically in the courtroom.

“One of the things I tell people all the time is that I’m relatively unbothered when I go to court and I deal with arrogant, sexist, racist attorneys, judges, because trust me, they are still out there, I deal with it all the time, why am I unbothered? It’s not that I like them or accept less than desireable treatment from them but they can’t take my power from me, they can’t take me off my game,” Nordstrom said.

Over the weekend DePauw alumns also joined in celebrating the construction of the Justin and Darrianne Christian Center for Diversity and Inclusion, another advance that DePauw has made regarding diversity and inclusion.

The new center will include a library, salon, meeting rooms and a kitchen. “More meeting rooms, a kitchen, things where people can comfortably get their hair done or just conveniences that aren’t too much found on campus, so a grounds for community and also to get work done,” Nigel Bruce, the organizer of Coming Together Weekend, said.

Overall, Bruce was pleased by how the weekend turned out, but said that alumni want more connection with current DePauw students. “It seems like the biggest thing that alumni care about is interacting with the students,” Bruce said, “so using the students to bring the alumni back is a big thing.”