February 2023

Statement from the Interim Vice President for Equity and Inclusion:

Dear Campus Community,

There have been many tragic events that have occurred during the month of January, greatly impacting our world and reminding us of how important it is to support each other in our campus community.

On January 7, 2023, Tyre Nichols was pulled over and was severely beaten by Memphis Police officers. He died in the hospital three days later. Five officers have been fired and are facing second degree murder and assault. In released videos, police are shown aggressively dragging Nichols from his car and chasing him on foot. Also, officers are seen beating and kicking Nichols on the ground. President Biden issued a statement on the footage calling it “horrific.”

In addition, there was a shooting at the MLK Jr. Day event in Fort Pierce, Florida on January 16 with over 1,000 people in attendance. Sadly, the state of California had six mass shootings in January, including the incidents at a dance studio in Monterey Park during the Lunar New Year and at two farms in Half Moon Bay.

The start of 2023 has been very tragic for many communities. I know these events have been particularly painful for some members of our campus community, particularly our Black, Indigenous, and community members of color. Our hearts go out to the victim’s families, friends, communities, and  everyone affected by these events. It breaks my heart that many of the lives of these families have been shattered due to the loss of their loved ones, and they will never be the same.

The Office for Equity and Inclusion, The Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community, and the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion will  offer space and reflection for students to share their feelings about these tragic incidents on Tuesday, February 7 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Gold Ballroom. RSVP today.

Please continue to seek out community with each other, and the support you need. Resources on campus include:

Dr. Reginald H. Miles
Interim Vice President, Equity and Inclusion

February Days
  • Reginald Miles will conduct office hours on Tuesdays (February 14 and 28) in the Taylor Center from 4pm-5pm
  • February 7- Student dedicated time for reflection and space regarding tragic events, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Gold Ballroom, RSVP
  • February 14 – Happy Valentine’s Day
  • February 20 – Presidents’ Day
  • February 21 -Virtual Event with the college’s first Black faculty member, Dr. La Francis Rodgers-Rose 3pm-4pm                    Register Today    Zoom Link    Event Details

Meet Members of Our Community:

Staff Spotlight

Name: Damian A. Waite

From: Jamaica
Position: Assistant Director for Multicultural, Gender, and Sexuality
Education: BS in Marketing, Finance Minor from University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN
Masters of Social Work: Boston College of Social Work

  1. When did you start your St. Olaf journey as a staff member?
    September 2018
  2. Why did you choose to work at St. Olaf College?
    I visited St. Olaf many years prior to commencing work here in Residence Life, when my friend Paul Dillion was a student here. I used to joke that I slept in Thorson Hall long before I knew that I would be the Area Coordinator for it. My journey to St. Olaf was one that was not planned, but became the opportunity for me to truly do what I love -make a difference in my own small way- to be an asset to my community. St. Olaf provided that opportunity for me to reenter Student Life as a career and help support the future leaders of industries on their self-authorship journeys during these crucial years living and learning in this incubator here on the Hill.
  3. What is your definition of an inclusive community?
    Personally, my ideal inclusive community is a place/space/environment where each community member is comfortable to be themselves, comfortable to express themselves, is able to speak up, to offer their input, and is heard by the other members of the community. This community is not devoid of conflict or difference, but is truly a place where people genuinely feel like they are seen, heard, have a voice, and are valued.
  4. What is your personal ‘tagline’?
    I don’t have a tagline per se, but I do value acknowledging people by name, especially in email correspondence. I always make a point to include a person’s name in all my email correspondence, as I think there is value in recognizing a person by their name.
  5. No one knows that I…
    In another life I might have been a pianist. I grew up in an orphanage in Jamaica and used to sing in a small group with four other boys. On one occasion, we had to sing at a funeral, and I decided that I was going to learn the song by practicing notes on the piano at the orphanage, so began my love affair with the piano. I am not yet a concert pianist, but I can say that I have taught myself how to play the piano.


Faculty Spotlight

Name: Dr. Sidonia AnnMarie Alenuma
Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology
From: Ghana, West Africa
BA. Sociology and Russian Language, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana
MA: International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
PhD: Doctor of Philosophy, Cultural Studies in Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

  1. When did you start your work at St. Olaf College?
    September 2021
  2. Why did you want to work at St. Olaf College?
    What started off as one semester teaching two courses in Sociology has ended up being two years and counting of a joyride. I am feeling at home teaching SOAN 121-Introduction to Sociology; SOAN 264-Race and Class in American Culture, and RACE 121-Introduction to Race and Ethnic Studies (Spring 2023).
  3. What is your definition of an inclusive community?
    It takes true and meaningful education and/or the creation of awareness of injustices for an inclusive community to thrive. True and meaningful education must cherish diversity, equity, and social justice. For this to happen, education must be rooted in the local and global communities.
  4. What is your personal ‘tagline’?
    All voices in a community are legitimate roads to an inclusive community.
  5. No one knows that…
    Each one of my two dogs that I have had were bilingual. They could understand both English and Dagaare (a Ghanaian language).

Staff Spotlight

Name: Nekeidra Forbes-Morrison
From: Glen Allen, VA
  Advisor, Coaching and Student Success in Academic Success Center
Education: BS, Family and Consumer Sciences (Cum Laude),  Virginia State University
M.Ed.: Masters in Education: Vocational and Technical Education, Virginia State University

  1. When did you start your St. Olaf journey as a staff member?
    I started in August 2020 at the Center for Advising and Academic Support (now the Academic Success Center).
  2. Why did you want to work at St. Olaf College?
    I intensely missed working with college students. In my previous position, I worked in the Vandal Success Center as an Academic Coach and taught College Success Strategies at the University of Idaho.
  3. What is your definition of an inclusive community?
    Values diversity and promotes respect, equal treatment, and opportunities.
  4. What is your personal ‘tagline’? Heavy on the self love and self care.
  5. No one knows that I… Enjoy Bob Ross style painting!!

Dedicated Affinity Groups for Faculty and Staff

If you want to learn more about our affinity and how you can get involved, reach out to your colleagues below:

  • BIPOC:         Contact Marie New (new@stolaf.edu), Admissions
  • LGBTQIA+: Contact Eric Eischens (eische1@stolaf.edu), Facilities

Taylor Center Events in February

For questions: Contact Martin Olague (olague1@stolaf.edu)

Oles Against Inequality Barbershop Pop Up

  • Monday, February 6 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. by appointment only
  • The Pause
  • Cost: $20-$25

Uprising VI: Blackness Unbounded

  • February 10-March 3, 2023
  • Groot Gallery
  • Curated by Leila Rocha Fischer, Ramos Lenyatsa, Ruhama Solomon, and Eva Wynter
  • The theme for this year’s exhibition, Blackness Unbounded, has a particular focus on the individual but within the community there are no chains or strings attached.

Coffee Hour: Let Us Love

  • Friday, February 10 from 4-5 p.m. in the Taylor Center Lounge

Documentary: CROWN

  • Monday, February 20 at 6 p.m. in Tomson 280
  • CROWN looks at Black hair, and the college’s barbershop is featured in the documentary

February is Black History Month

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to reflect on the Black leaders who have made a lasting   impression on our world. Some of my favorites include: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Harriet Tubman. These and other powerful leaders paved the way for many others in the Black community. Their efforts will never be forgotten. As  I mentioned in a previous newsletter, many of us experience hardships and struggles prior to our St. Olaf journeys. With the tragic events, specifically targeted to our Black communities, we need to be thoughtful in uplifting this community. Please celebrate our black colleagues and students this month as they bring their own stories to the St. Olaf experience.

Black History on the History Channel
Celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month Events – City of Minneapolis