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Lei focuses on diversity, students

Joy Lei is the University of La Verne’s chief diversity and inclusivity officer. Her duty is to oversee diversity initiatives and issues concerning faculty, staff and students. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Joy Lei is the University of La Verne’s chief diversity and inclusivity officer. Her duty is to oversee diversity initiatives and issues concerning faculty, staff and students. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Christina Collins Burton
Editor in Chief

After only three months as the chief diversity and inclusivity officer, Joy Lei has already begun to make herself familiar with the cultural atmosphere at the University of La Verne.

Born in Taiwan, Lei immigrated to the United States with her family when she was six years old. Here, she grew up in La Palma and began her college career at UC Santa Barbara.

When she entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for education, Lei was determined to learn how to make educational environments diverse for students.

“We learn all of our bias, our racism and our sexism,” Lei said. “Schools can serve as a way to intervene in that and can actually be a way to help us unlearn and relearn more positive and more equitable and fair thoughts.”

Lei went to teach at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for six years. She was involved in the education department and American culture program.

She taught about race and ethnicity, Asian American studies and identity and race relations in school and multicultural education.

After teaching, Lei participated in the nonprofit organization “Facing History and Ourselves” in New York and transferred to the office in Pasadena.

There she provided professional support to secondary school teachers to help them integrate social justice into their teaching.

But Lei’s drive to help a community did not stop and she eventually got the position of assistant campus diversity officer at UC Santa Cruz.

“I was looking for the opportunity to be back in California,” Lei said. “Even being there was a long drive though, so when the (CDIO position) came along not only was it a great step for me in my career but it would also bring me back to Southern California.”

After her assistant position at UC Santa Cruz, Lei has had to step up to the chief position with her move to the University.

“I really loved the fact it was a smaller University and that there is a campus community,” Lei said. “Having taught at Vassar College where it was a smaller campus as well, I felt (La Verne) was a place I really could have an effect and that I could still learn.”

Since starting, Lei has had monthly meetings with Multi­cultural Affairs Director Daniel Lorea and Intercultural Program Coordinator Rosalilia Gradilla. The three of them still have overlapping positions but are swapping ideas to benefit the campus.

“It’s been great to work with someone who is on board and supports us and is open to our ideas and not so much imposing but knowing what we want to do and how she can best support us,” Gradilla said.

Gradilla feels that with Lei in the CDIO position the Univer­sity is on its way to having more student voices heard on campus.

“I think our students have a lot of great ideas and I think they are our primary stake-holders at this institution,” Gradilla said. “By having a CDIO to support us and back us up in that area I hope that our students feel encouraged to service as advocates and speak their mind.”

Tahil Sharma, junior foreign language major and international studies minor, has worked with Lei to have events that encourage diversity.

“She represents a community of students that never had an official voice so close to the president,” Sharma said.

“Now that we have her on campus she should not give us greater representation or importance, but give us equal representation and importance.”

While the CDIO position sounds like a peace officer for the University, Lei does not believe it is possible to reach absolute conflict resolution.

“If we want diversity… then we’re going to have conflict and we’re going to have differences,” Lei said.“Rather than trying to avoid that I’d rather work on a community where when that happens we can channel it in a constructive way and make those instances into something that makes us stronger.”

Christina Collins Burton can be reached at christina.burton@laverne.edu.

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