Guest speaker Freddy García (right) was invited to campus by Michael Silvestro (left), AVP of Human Resources and a member of the Inclusion Initiative Team.
Freddy García, an up-and-coming leader in diversity, inclusion and equality, spoke to the Seton Hall community on October 30, bringing a youthful and current perspective on diversity and inclusion. Previously serving as the special assistant to the president for diversity, inclusion and community engagement at Marist College, García led the efforts to institute a college-wide operational plan that held each department accountable for individual diversity and inclusion goals.
Interim Provost Karen Boroff, Ph.D., whose office has spearheaded the recent diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, voiced, "Mr. García's presentation was a gift to all of us. We were able to see how each of us can do better to become more inclusive, and to realize our obligations to be waymakers for everyone."
In his presentation, "Leading from Within: Diversity and Inclusion in College and Beyond," García shared his personal experience growing up in the Bronx with a single mother, who borrowed money from family and friends to send him and his two brothers to Catholic school because she recognized the investment she was making in their futures. García made his decision to attend college after working at an unfulfilling job in a pharmacy in high school. "I didn't want to have to work at a job I didn't enjoy, so I decided to attend college to have more job choices," he explained.
Satisfied with his decision to enroll at Marist College, García found academic and financial support through the college's higher education opportunity program, closely identifying with the program's members. He didn't think of diversity or any issues related to it until a year or so into his studies, when both faculty and other students started to erroneously judge his character based on his appearance and the fact that he was from the Bronx. Some of these comments and experiences "started to shape how I viewed myself," he said, noting that these moments became the "building blocks" that informed his future career.
García went on to be a two-time graduate of Marist College with a B.S. in business marketing and an M.B.A. in financial management. He began his career at Marist as well, serving as the assistant director of student financial services at Marist. Tasked with managing the financial aid programs for adult learners, part-time students and veterans, García could relate to these nontraditional students who "felt left out, with no voice" just as he did as an undergraduate. During this time, he and a few colleagues noticed that men of color were not succeeding while at the college. They formed a group, Agents of Social Change, "to empower traditional-aged college males to be 'agents of social change,' to strive for leadership, academic excellence and make a difference in their communities."
In 2012, he took on a new role: Presidential Fellow. It was from here that he started to make noticeable changes, serving as an active member of the college's diversity council. Being a recent graduate, García was able to leverage the student voice in those meetings. He then took on the role of special assistant to the president in 2014, serving as a liaison to the community and even attending many student organization meetings and events in order to stay in touch with the student population. One of his responsibilities included recruiting and mentoring inner-city students from Los Angeles.
Then in 2017, under a new president, he began his role as special assistant to the president for diversity, inclusion and community engagement. It was in this role that he was able to focus on policies, processes and standards in relation to diversity and inclusion. He served as co-chair of the team that worked on a climate survey, which aimed to gauge the personal experiences, perceptions and institutional efforts of administrators, staff and students at Marist College. He was also a part of the Diversity and Inclusion "Champion Training" for faculty and staff, empowering them to change things within their own departments by providing them with resources and tools.
Throughout all of his roles, García saw the importance of college administrators and staff giving their time to students. "The most important thing is to just be available," he said, adding that having a genuine relationship with students produces genuine responses. By taking the time to listen to what students have to say, it is easier to "separate people from the issue" and see the matter at hand more clearly and work more effectively toward a solution.
Since April 2019, García has served as the regional director for diversity, inclusion and community Engagement for Westchester Medical Center Health Network. In this role he develops and implements initiatives to engage the Network's workforce, patients, internal and external stakeholders in Ulster and Dutchess Counties.
Vice President of Student Services Shawna Cooper-Gibson, Ed.D., who joined the University in August, appreciated Mr. García sharing his story with the community. "It mirrored many of the experiences of our own Seton Hall family and spoke to our mission of working in a diverse and collaborative environment," she said.
Seton Hall's Inclusion Speaker Series brings to campus noted speakers with different perspectives on diversity and inclusion based on their own personal and professional backgrounds. These presentations are intended to provide tools to help the University community engage in self-reflection and examine how what we say and do can help promote inclusion as well as student and employee success.
The series continues on January 31, 2020, as the University welcomes Jerry Kang, J.D., UCLA's first vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. The series will then conclude on March 19, 2020 with a presentation by Ms. Candi Castleberry Singleton, vice president of diversity partnership strategy and engagement at Twitter.
Faculty, administrators and staff who attend all four of the speaker series events will receive a certificate of attendance, so please bring your SHU ID for the certificate of attendance records.