Engaged Higher Education Network
Inclusive Student Services and Support: Oklahoma College and University Diversity Officers Panel
November 13, 2020
Diversity and inclusion are key to the education experience of the student population and involves all participants and stakeholders in the education process: students, staff, faculty, employers. Diversity has many different axes, including gender, sexual orientation, class, origin, ability, race, ethnicity, and religion. This session is a panel discussion with various Oklahoma diversity officers to discuss current and planned efforts towards increasing diversity and equity while improving inclusion within colleges and universities within the State of Oklahoma.
Amanda Chastang is the Diversity Officer at The University of Tulsa (TU). Having a passion for equity, social justice and diversity, Amanda received her Bachelors in Conflict Studies with a focus on Race, Ethnicity and Culture Conflict and Gender Conflict from DePauw University. She then continued her journey in higher education at The University of Tulsa by earning her Masters in History with a concentration on the intersections of Race, Women and Gender. During her time as a graduate student working in the Office of Diversity and Engagement, Amanda became affluent in diversity related policies and best practices by assisting in the development of the university’s Diversity Action Plan. After graduation, Amanda became the Diversity and Engagement Fellow and later the Director of Multicultural Affairs. Since then, Amanda has continued working at the university in an effort to revitalize and implement diverse initiatives that reflect our ever-changing environment. As a Tulsa native, Amanda is passionate about and committed to using her platform to promote inclusivity, diversity and equality throughout TU, Tulsa and the surrounding communities.
Bryon Dickens serves as the architect and director of the Oklahoma City Community College mentorship program: Students Connecting with Mentors for Success. Providing students with academic support, post-graduation preparation, and character development, the mentorship program has been life changing for the participants. The program is for Black, Hispanic, and Native American first-generation college students. Their average GPAs have remained above 3.0 every semester, and 93% of program graduates have gone on to four-year institutions.
The mentorship program has been recognized for its excellence with national awards such as the American Association of Community Colleges Advancing Diversity Award of Excellence and the Association of Community College Trustees Charles Kennedy Equity Award. Mr. Dickens has personally received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award, the Oklahoma Interfaith Alliance Community Service Award, and the Communitas Community Service in Education Award.
Mr. Dickens earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a Master of Education degree from the University of Oklahoma. He is also a certified image consultant and teaches courses in the United States and Europe.
Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite
Belinda Higgs Hyppolite joined the OU Executive team and the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer on January 6, 2020. In her 24-year long career in higher education, she served in a variety of leadership roles and responsibilities starting in Student Affairs, where she worked on retention for at-risk students. She continued her career in Housing and Residential Life working with the residential student body.
Dr. Higgs Hyppolite has spent her career focused on social justice issues plaguing faculty, staff, and student success. Dr. Hyppolite has supported and advocated for a number of student populations to include low-income, first generation, foster care, religious and non-religious, DACA/TPS, and undocumented students. She also advocated for students in fraternity and sorority organizations, multicultural organizations, and students in foster care. Her commitment to advance social justice in higher education brought her to work in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Greek Life, and Multicultural Affairs.
Throughout her career, Dr. Hyppolite has passionately advocated for the voiceless through her work in diversity education and oppression reduction. As a social justice advocate and educator, she believes that access to education is a right, not a privilege. Persevering in her journey to promote the success of diverse faculty, staff, and students, Dr. Hyppolite is proud to serve as the new Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion and OU's Chief Diversity Officer.
Dr. Jason F. Kirksey
Jason F. Kirksey is the Vice President for Institutional Diversity and the Chief Diversity Officer at Oklahoma State University (OSU). He also holds the rank of Associate Professor in the OSU Department of Political Science. Dr. Kirksey brings approximately 25 years of experience teaching, researching, and active engagement with issues related to diversity and inclusion. His areas of expertise include minority politics, race and sports, and public policy, with emphasis on African Americans, Native Americans, and women in the American political system. Dr. Kirksey’s published research has appeared in the National Political Science Review, Women and Politics, the Voting Rights Review, Focus on Law Review, and Oklahoma Politics. In addition to his published articles, Dr. Kirksey has written several book chapters, focused primarily on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Additionally, he has served as a federal court-certified litigation consultant in voting rights cases.
He holds a BA in both Political Science and Economics (1989) and an MA in Political Science (1991) from OSU. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of New Orleans in 1997. He is also a 2014 graduate of Class XXVII of Leadership Oklahoma.
Dr. Kirksey is a native of Denver, Colorado. He and his wife Kim, also an OSU alum, have two children, Kaitlyn and Garrett, who currently attend OSU.
Dr. Talia Carroll
Talia Caroll (she/her) currently serves as the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Oklahoma City University where she leads and guides diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The foundation of her passion for this work stems from her experiences living in Portugal, Singapore, and Spain, traveling extensively as a member of a military family, as well as meaningful career opportunities that shaped her worldview and commitment to helping others broaden their perspectives.
With nearly fifteen years of professional experience, she has dedicated her career to improving the academic and social support for historically marginalized and underserved populations, with special attention to improving campus climate and sense of belonging within higher education communities.
Dr. Carroll engages in her work from an affirming stance by underscoring that intersection identities inform our daily experiences. She thrives from supporting individuals in achieving personal and professional growth as the owner and founder of Kinetic Connections Consulting, LLC. Specifically, she provides coaching, consulting, and speaking engagements for individuals, groups, and businesses on a range of topics including diversity, equity, inclusion, leadership, and change and career management.
Dr. Carroll earned a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education from The University of Oklahoma. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education from The Pennsylvania State University.
In addition to her professional life, she also enjoys spending time (virtually, of course) with friends and family, getting take-out from restaurants she hasn’t tried before, taking daily walks, and becoming reacquainted with Oklahoma City having returned back to her home state from living in Colorado.
Dr. Jason Johnson
Jason K. Johnson has over 15 years of experience within student services, having served as the Director of Upward Bound at the University of Oklahoma and working with Educational Talent Search at Langston University. As Coordinator of African American Affairs at Oklahoma State University, he assists students in refining their academic skills and utilizing campus resources, promotes understanding of the student’s culture and respect for other cultures, and serves as advisor for the African American Student Association. Currently, Jason serves as the Assistant Vice President (AVP) for Student Success for Langston University. In this role, he is student-focused institutional administrator responsible for developing and implementing an experience that builds community, satisfaction, affinity and a sense of belonging.
In addition, Dr. Johnson was recently published in the Journal of Educational Studies, where he challenged educators to become more socially involved in the issues that are facing African American students and students of color on college campuses and public spaces. Bringing his passion for students, travel and research together, Jason is currently developing a study abroad course for students that will explore post-colonial effects on marginalized populations in the Global South.
On a personal note, Jason and his wife Courtney have three children—Aiden, 13, Ashlyn, 11 and Austin, 2.