Candidates for the position of vice president of Diversity at Bellevue College have been narrowed down to two potential nominees, Yoshiko Harden and Christina Castorena. Interviews for Harden and Castorena were scheduled for May 21 and May 29, respectively. The two candidates were given tours of the campus, met with specific groups and forums, including Human Resources, Diversity Caucus and the Pluralism Representatives, as well as had lunch and spoke in an open forum for faculty and students alike.
The candidates were chosen by the Search Advisory Committee, which had been formed in January by Interim President Laura Saunders. Since then, the committee has reviewed many applications in order to find a suitable vice president.
“The committee has worked diligently over the last couple of months and I am happy to report that the committee has identified two candidates for consideration,” wrote Saunders in an e-mail to BC faculty and staff.
Harden is currently the director of Multicultural Services and Student Development at Highline Community College. She has over 10 years of experience working in student affairs and program development, beginning programs like SCORE (Students of Color Opting to Reach Excellence) and an Inter-Cultural Center at Highline.
“I believe that my educational and professional experiences have prepared me well to further my work in higher education and I believe that I am an excellent candidate for the vice-president of Diversity position at Bellevue College… I am committed to enriching the lives of all students and helping to lead them toward success,” Harden wrote in her letter of application to the committee.
When asked questions by students at Highline, Harden demonstrated that she is very involved in bringing awareness to the community. “Cultural diversity is not just about potlucks and cultural fairs,” she said. Harden believes every individual should be interested in the social issues affecting all groups of society.
“If we think about multiculturalism as competencies, as skills like reading and writing, then everyone should be invested into multiculturalism,” said Harden.
Castorena is currently at Everett Community College. She has over 20 years of experience with student affairs such as financial aid and student employment. Castorena has helped her college develop the STAR (STudent Achievement and Retention) Program, which was formed to aid students of color.
“My commitment and passion for diversity, inclusion and equity comes from my personal life experiences as a woman of color and a first-generation college student,” wrote Castorena in her letter of application.
When sitting in the open forum for students and faculty, Castorena answered questions ranging from diversity, to LGBTQ, to non-native speakers struggling with English. Asked about obstacles to overcome if she became vice president, Castorena specified accountability and communication. She was very direct in addressing inequality and racial issues.
“If you don’t take the time to deal with this now, you’ll spend twice as much time on it later…If it’s all talk and nothing happens, that builds distrust,” she said, explaining that some people don’t want to have a discrimination conversation because it might make them feel guilty. “It’s not about feeling guilty; it’s about using privilege to be an agent of change.”
The Search Advisory Committee encouraged everyone to meet the candidates for themselves. The committee added that they would appreciate input from faculty, staff and students about their impressions of the candidates. All input will be kept anonymous and later sent to President Saunders for appraisal.