Tare Suriel '18 Contributing Writer
The Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity is receiving a new Chief Diversity Officer, Dwight K. Hamilton. With a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School, experience in civil litigation and contract law and, most recently, experience as Associate Vice President of Affirmative Action and Title IX officer at Grand Valley State University, Hamilton comes to Smith ready and qualified to participate in this integral part of our community.
In Hamilton’s own words, his job is “making sure that Smith is compliant with applicable laws but also with an eye of being inclusive.” Of course, that job means something different here at Smith than at Grand Valley State University, a co-ed institution with roughly 25,000 students in Michigan.
“I am looking forward to it,” Hamilton said. “One thing that attracted me to Smith was the opportunity to be around so many future leaders, professionals, researchers, artists ... As far as what I have learned [at Grand Valley], I have spent a lot of time over the last five years identifying institutional barriers to inclusion.”
Hamilton seemed undaunted, if not excited, by the “learning curve.” That is not to say he isn’t cognizant of the aspects of diversity at Smith. To Hamilton, “As far as how Smith is doing, one thing it’s very strong in is attracting international students and that certainly enriches the educational experience.” However, Hamilton said it’s a different environment in the East: “Something that I see a little different coming out to the East Coast from the Midwest is how socio-economic class fares upon different students.”
Despite the differences between Grand Valley and Smith, one can get an idea of the direction the Office of Diversity and Inclusion may take under Mr. Hamilton by looking at the measures he took at Grand Valley State University. He oversaw changes in policies about sexual misconduct, religious accommodation, sexual assault, diversity in faculty and staff and transgender inclusivity.
His experience with extending non-discrimination policies to transgender students will undoubtedly come into play in his new position as Smith faces decisions on its admission policies regarding transgender applicants.
“What I did was lead a committee who took an in-depth look on the experience of a transgender student. And we found it was a profound experience from the moment they enter to when they put a name on their diploma. I am coming from an institution that is coeducational, so I have been looking at what some of the other all-women’s institutions are doing, and I fully intend to being part of the discussion regarding Smith policy on transgender students.”
For now, Hamilton is still in Michigan and will be arriving to take his role in February. “I want the Smith students to know this office belongs to them as well,” he said. “I want to learn the community. I am going to come in, and we are going to do a lot of listening ... I am a collaborative leader, and I don’t expect to be the sole expert on matters of inclusion. I have met other faculty and staff members who have aggressive knowledge on inclusion. I welcome partnership with those inclusion champions.”