New ASC office aims to increase diversity

(01-20-2009)

Increasing campus diversity and extending services to the entire campus community are just two goals of the Adams State College's new Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), according to office Director, Joel Korngut. He is joined by Diversity Officer, Isabel Medina Keiser.

Joel Korngut

Joel Korngut

"President Svaldi was very wise in creating this office. Adams State has made many improvements, but we need to become more proactive in promoting diversity and eliminating discrimination," Korngut said.

Isabel Medina Keiser

Isabel Medina Keiser

The new OEO is located in the Student Union Building room 329, a location that is central to campus, yet offers privacy. The office phone number is 587-8213.

Korngut graduated from Adams State in 1967 and after working in human resources in the private sector, went on to a 25-year career in Human Resources and Equal Employment Opportunity with the State of New Mexico. He is an experienced human resources manager, investigator, and mediator. He has directed and conducted training on issues related to diversity, affirmative action, and sexual harassment. He has worked for the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, Human Resources Bureau Chief for the New Mexico Department of Labor, and Operations Chief for the New Mexico State Personnel Office.

Medina Keiser has extensive experience in mediation, victim counseling, and advocacy. Since January, 2007, she served as educational outreach specialist for Tu Casa, an Alamosa agency that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence. Prior to that, she was a probation officer and victim assistance coordinator with the 12th Judicial Probation Department in Alamosa. For 12 years, she was a victim/witness advocate for the Larimer County District Attorney's Office. In Gunnison, Colo., she founded and directed the Women's Resource Center/Jubilee House, as well as the Gunnison Valley Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Team. She attended Western State College, earning a B.A. in sociology in 1985 and an M.A. in education with an emphasis in agency counseling in 1989.

Expanding access and opportunity

Established in August, the OEO oversees Affirmative Action and ADA requirements (Americans with Disabilities Act), the hiring and recruitment process, and investigation of discrimination/harassment complaints.

"We mirror the EEOC process and are able to conduct investigations of complaints of discrimination," Korngut noted.

Korngut initiated a task force to review and revise the college's faculty and exempt staff search/recruitment process, to make it more efficient and to promote diversity. They will also incorporate procedures to reach a more diverse applicant pool.

"We need to do this to reflect our students and community. A large portion of our student body is people of color. Our students need role models that make sense. The idea is to try to recruit more diverse faculty." Korngut said.

Another major task is conducting a survey of students on sexual harassment/assault as the first step in creating an effective awareness campaign.

"We want to determine the best approach for students," Medina Keiser said. National research shows that more than 70 percent of female college students have experienced harassment, and that fully 50 percent of male students think the issue is a joke.

Offering support & building awareness

Medina Keiser is developing a campus Diversity Council, which includes a mix of people from campus and deals with issues concerning race, sexuality, disability, gender, and age. The office is working with Student Life to offer more diverse programs and create clubs reflecting diverse student interest. One student is working on an International Diversity Club, for example.

"We want students to become active and make their voices heard. This is a way of making the campus more accepting of everyone," she said.

In the "Safe Conversation" program, both Medina Keiser and Korngut are available to serve as ombudsmen or mediators for any student or employee to discuss problems and provide appropriate intervention.

In administering ADA requirements, the OEO coordinates with several other campus offices, such as Student Support Services, the Grizzly Testing & Learning Center, and the Counseling Center.

"We want to make students and the campus more aware of ADA services. We're about making sure students have access to education and appropriate accommodations for disabilities, whether they be physical, learning related, or psychiatric," Korngut said.

By Julie Waechter