Inaugural university diversity officer takes the helm


(Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Dr. Rashanda Booker, the university’s first diversity officer, during the MLK Commemoration.

By Jazmin Alvarado Villegas, Reporter

The Division of Equity and Engagement Office opened on Jan. 3. Along with the new office, Fresno State hired its first university diversity officer, Rashanda Booker. 

Booker was raised in Louisiana and earned her doctorate in educational leadership, research and counseling from Louisiana State University. Booker also previously held a position at the University of Mississippi as the inclusive excellence and engagement director.

The office is located in Thomas Building 115. It will focus on student outreach and making sure Fresno State has a foundation specifically dedicated to diversity and inclusion.  

Booker said universities need to examine and be aware of the systemic injustices that marginalized students on campus face. She wants to build bridges between students’ historical pasts and their futures, which she hopes can be celebrated one day. 

“As the inaugural [university diversity officer], I hope to be able to engage the community to embrace a model of cultural integration. [The Division of Equity and Engagement Office] will lead Fresno State in ‘moving beyond diversity,’ toward a framework that honors the strength of multiple groups and individuals,” Booker told The Collegian. 

Booker plans to work closely with the department’s new program coordinator, D’Aungillique Jackson, and Associated Students Inc. Their plan is to create a Student Equity Advisory Council to achieve their goals and make sure they receive student input on what may require attention and innovation on campus. 

According to the Fresno State Office of Institutional Effectiveness, 80.4% of the student population last semester was non-white. With more than half of the population being Hispanic/Latine, enrollment rates for other communities of colors have dropped compared to 2021’s fall semester, according to the data

Booker said it is important that students see equal representation. 

“My personal goal as a transplant in this new region, and system, is to take this first year to learn about the campus community and the Central Valley. While building relationships, and learning the culture on and off campus, I will then create a vision for promoting inclusion and ways to involve the campus and community. It is imperative for all constituents to understand that moving beyond diversity is not simply the job of the UDO and the DEE. It is everyone’s role to champion equity, and be change agents,” said Booker. 

The new department has adopted the framework of “inclusive excellence,” which is a specific structure select universities choose to follow designed to help integrate diversity, inclusivity, and equity into college campuses. 

“The Inclusive Excellence Framework will ensure a cohesive, coherent, and collaborative integration of equity, diversity, and inclusion in these four areas: access and success, climate and intergroup relations, education and scholarship, infrastructure and investment, and community and partnerships,” Booker said. 

“In the first year, minor adjustments that are relatively easy to implement will be evident, but the pervasive and deep shifts to alter the culture of Fresno State will take time,” she added. 

On Feb. 21 there will be an “Amazing Race”-style event hosted by the Africana Studies Program. This event will allow students the opportunity to meet and introduce themselves to Booker and receive insight as to what she has in store.