New Chief Diversity Officer Brian Corpening

By Jessenya Guerra
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Members of the Office of Inclusive Excellence shown from left to right. Nizhoni Chow-Garcia, Bernadette Ortiz, and Brian Corpening. Photo by Jessenya Guerra.

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is a large campus that is filled with a number of resources. Often, there is a disconnect between those resources and the students. The Lutrinae has been in contact with many different offices on campus to find which offices are overlooked or missed by students. The Lutrinae had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian Corpening, Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Inclusive Excellence, and Nizhoni Chow-Garcia, Associate Director in the Office of Inclusive Excellence, to talk about the importance of their work on campus.

The Lutrinae: What does Inclusive Excellence mean to you?

Chow-Garcia (CG): “Inclusive Excellence I think is the ideal. It is the goal we’re striving toward. It is diversity in all its forms and identities. It’s a way in which we’re striving, as an organization, to be inclusively excellent, not just for students, not just for staff , not just for faculty, but as an institution as a whole.”

Corpening (C): “I agree with that, and I want to add that it also means, to me, how we see ourselves as a community. Where everyone feels valued, important, has a role and a responsibility to move forward as a community. When you talk about inclusivity, you are talking about engagement, where everyone has a role. When you talk about excellence, the expectation is that everyone is going to achieve their best and be at their best. So there’s no difference between how people see themselves and how people are being successful on this campus. I think that is what inclusive excellence means. I see it as community and how we engage in that community, and are successful in it.”

Why might someone find themselves in your office?

C: “I think for various reasons. I think in terms of wanting help and support, and wanting a sense of belonging and help achieving their goals and objectives. Also in ways of finding themselves and discovering the institution. Looking at ways that they can collaborate with others and enhance their particular presence at the institution. One of the things about going to a college or a University is a collaboration and working together, I think that we facilitate that. We don’t see ourselves as an individual organization, we see ourselves as partners with every particular aspect of this institution.”

CG: “To echo that, first and foremost, we’re here for the students and I encourage any and all students to come in. Whether they are looking for support, whether they want to provide feedback, whether they are attending one of our events that we are putting on with one of the other office’s on campus. We are looking to continuously improve toward striving toward inclusive excellence, it is the students who are going to be providing us with that type of feedback.”

How are you adjusting as the new Vice President of Inclusive Excellence role?

C: “It’s great! I’ve enjoyed this. One thing I want to say is that I was born here, my mom and dad were stationed here at Fort Ord. I went to 10th grade here at Seaside High School. This place has an important place in my family’s history and for me, spiritually. It’s like coming home for me. I love this place. I think it’s a great place. I like the fact that it’s not that old. People here are willing to try new things and put themselves into different ways, rather than at an institution stuck in traditions. When schools are stoggy and historically stuck, there’s no way for things to grow and develop. That’s the beautiful thing
about being here.”

Is there anything new that you are implementing?

C: “We’re a new office, we’ve only been here five years. I’m pleased with what we’ve been doing so far. I think that we’re all great individuals, Nizhoni, Bernadette and myself, we’re all committed individuals and creative individuals and I look forward to what we’ll be doing in the future and for the benefit of this institution. One is the equity and inclusion plan, which we plan to bring to a conclusion in the very near future, and The Diversity Learning series where faculty and staff participate. Those who haven’t should take advantage of it because, it’s a good opportunity for them to be exposed to new, issues and ideas, and place people with the capacity to live and exist in an extremely diverse community like we have. We’ll continue to do those things for the betterment of the University and we’ll look at ways to expand as well, so that when students leave here, they’re ready for the
world.”

CG: “We are also here as support for undocumented students. One of our biggest goals was really facilitating that across campus. It was first discovering that there was a need and creating a partnership with other places across campus. We then created a website, an online resource for undocumented students to get support. Then followed the undocu-ally training for staff and faculty, and has since expanded to students, like the undocu-otters club, so those needs we are here for.”

If you want to learn more about Nizhoni Chow-Garcia, Brian Corpening or the Office of Inclusive Excellence, visit csumb.edu/diversity.

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