Continuing with a series of interviews in advance of Murray State University’s 2017 Presidential Lecture, Chad Lampe speaks with Dr. MarTeze Hammonds, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Arkansas Tech University, on Sounds Good.
Dr. Hammonds will speak alongside Dr. Walter Bumphus and Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton about diversity and inclusion in higher education at this year’s lecture entitled “We have a dream. Are we living it?”
Dr. Hammonds’s position is the first of its kind at Arkansas Tech. As associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Hammonds ensures that the university’s underrepresented populations are supported and have a voice on campus. He also works to educate the entire campus about underrepresented populations and the importance of inclusion through educational programming and training.
Hammonds says there are two main challenges in his work: legislation and imparting empathy to majority groups in campus communities.
“Different legislative acts or bills do trickle down to the institutional level and it makes a difference in how we do our work here. If it’s a state law or a federal law that prohibits some of the things that we’re trying to get folks to understand to be more inclusive, or to do to be more inclusive, then that really hurts and hinders the work that I do on campus,” Hammonds said.
“The campuses and institutions I have worked at are all what we call ‘PWI,’ predominately white institutions, and so the challenges at those institutions are, there are more people that don’t look or don’t identify as our underrepresented populations… And so the challenge is getting the majority to understand and to empathize with those individuals who are coming from a place of difference or who identify differently than the majority.”
Hammonds adds that white males still hold the bulk of leadership positions at many universities, which can hinder an institution’s understanding of its students, faculty, and staff who come from diverse backgrounds. The lack of understanding, he says, can be seen in decisions regarding budgets, promotions, tenure, and priority commitments.
When recruiting students of diverse backgrounds to predominately white universities in racially homogeneous areas, Hammonds says it is an institution’s responsibility to work with local government, law enforcement, and businesses to increase mindfulness of the many different people joining a community through the university. Hammonds says people will only want to come to a university if they feel safe and welcome both on and off campus.
Hammonds says Murray State is progressing in its diversity and inclusion. He says he felt loved and supported when he was a student at MSU, but there were also times he felt marginalized. “It was heavy, it hurt. But now looking at it from a more [professional, adult perspective], I’m thinking those were small things. But they do hurt, right? And, often times, [they’re] not intentional. And we talk about in diversity and inclusion that our intentions often don’t equal our impact,” Hammonds said. “But I do truly believe that Murray State is progressing.”
Hammonds hopes people come away from Thursday’s lecture with something actionable. He wants people to take what they hear to heart and reflect on their own lives to see how they can make a change for the better as individuals.
“Just because your truth may not be my truth, your identity may not be my identity or how I identify… No matter your truth, it doesn’t prohibit us from working together, from functioning,” Hammonds said. “And so if we can figure out how to just package all that and put it in our hearts and minds, I do think that the students the faculty, the staff, the community, everyone will walk away with something they can chew on and literally help them to change.”