Braley Dodson: What should incoming students know about your position or how you came to USD?
Jesus Trevino: I came to USD from the University of Denver, but I have been involved in the business of diversity at several universities. Here, my major position is to advance a diversity and inclusiveness agenda on the campus and make it a much more welcoming place for everybody.
BD: How is your definition of diversity different from the traditional definition of diversity?
JT: I distinguish between diversity and inclusiveness, and I use the metaphor of the dance. Diversity is being asked to a dance and inclusiveness is being asked to dance. In other words, diversity is about representation. Are there communities that are represented here that we need to be attentive to in terms of increasing them for programs and initiatives to bring them in and once they’re here, do we have the programs and initiatives from them to thrive, succeed make contributions of the university. That’s diversity. Inclusiveness are the populations here — are they being welcomed in the curriculum, procedures and marketing so we send the message to all backgrounds saying you’re welcome here and we want you to make contributions to the education of each other. Ultimately that’s where diversity really pays off, when you have someone from China talking to someone from a farm to learn, grow and understand the world better.
BD: Any big changes or plans for next year?
JT: Next year we will be focusing on implementing all the plans from the schools and vice presidents and making sure they take place so we can transform institutions. Most campuses are making sure they take care of students and everyone gets along as opposed to transforming so there is a culture that lives on and is not just one year and will impact incoming generations.
BD: Why does USD need an Office of Diversity?
JT: When I was hired, the institution said we want to change and we want to do better for diversity so there is a willingness, so we need somebody who can come in and give us direction. They created this office and they hired me. It’s a brand new position, and now we report to the president so that I am the person who is actually leading the community to make these changes.
BD: What are microagressions and how do they impact the university?
JT: Microagressions are the small, unintentional and unconscious slights or insults that are directed at different communities that basically say you don’t belong here. It’s something that we all do and need to be conscious about. “That’s so gay” is a microagression for example. People don’t know exactly what their aversion is or the origin of that word. “Being an Indian giver” is another microagression. The behavioral microagressions are somebody who sees an African American male coming their way and they get scared or they go the other way thinking that person will hurt them. Everybody does this, so we are all struggling as a community to be attentive and aware of those things.
BD: Anything incoming students should know about the Office of Diversity?
JT: We are in the business of trying to get students to interact across their differences. When new students come to the university, you are going to encounter the world here. I would encourage them to try to get to know someone different than themselves so they can educate them about their own background, because all these communities bring gifts and talents and culture and music and history and all those things because it is important to share those things. Conversely, it is important for us to learn about other communities. That is the mission of the university — to educate and prepare students for leadership positions in a very highly diverse society in the world. Get to know somebody new.