Today, Ruby Joy White, the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) Program Director, and Tara Sonali Miller, the Students for Education, Equity, and Direct Service (SEEDS) Program Director, will conclude their final day at Reed College. Both White and Miller have accepted new positions in regional government, with Miller focusing on connecting communities of color with parks and natural areas and White on arts education and equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, according to an email sent by Santi Alston, the Title IX Coordinator and Program Director for Restorative Practices and Interim Supervisor for the MRC Program Director and SEEDS Program Director for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Miller and White were the only two non-student professional staff members in the Office for Inclusive Community, which encompasses the MRC, SEEDS, Peer Mentor Program, and many other college programs.
In the email, Alston stressed how “[Miller] has elevated SEEDS during her time at Reed by completely reimagining community engagement opportunities and partnerships, and creating or redesigning signature programs including the Community Engagement (CE) Credit, Reed Community Pantry, Equity and Social Change Program, and Reed’s involvement in Project Pericles.” In addition to Miller’s achievements, Alston addressed how, “[White] has elevated the MRC during her time at Reed by expanding student support networks, and creating or redesigning signature programs including the Multicultural Peer Health Advocate Program, Equity and Social Change Program, Black Arts Festival, and Multicultural Graduation.” Alston’s email noted both Miller and White’s roles as mentors to students and their commitment to using a racial equity framework for MRC programs, services, and resources.
“Ruby, specifically, has changed my life forever,” said First Year Liaison & Event Coordinator and Latinx Diaspora Coordinator for the MRC, Jasmin Castellanos. “She’s changed my life in how I understand my lived experiences and how I look at the world just after talking with her and knowing her.” Castellanos worked with both Miller and White through the Equity and Social Change (ESC) Cohort Program, which the two administrators ran. “Every interaction has been amazing,” Castellanos said. “They’re both super insightful people, really thoughtful people.”
In an interview with Alston, he struggled to fully articulate how much Miller and White have done for Reed. “It’s actually really challenging to list all the things they’ve been involved with because they’ve created so many new programs and recreated existing ones,” Alston said.
As far as some of the changes that White has implemented through her work in the MRC, Alston noted the Heritage Month celebrations, Multicultural Peer Health Advocates Program, and ESC Cohort Program.
“For SEEDS, community engagement credit has been a big highlight for these past couple of years, also the Equity and Social Change program, redesigning and rethinking community partnerships and engagement opportunities,” Alston said of Miller’s work.
Multiple times throughout both his email and his interview, Alston stressed how many students White and Miller have positively impacted. Castellanos recounted how both White and Miller genuinely care about their students on a personal and individual level — which, Castellanos said, is a rare experience at Reed.
“Personally, I haven’t built any relationships like that with professors yet,” Castellanos explained. “I know it’s early, but it’s amazing how deep of a connection you make with [Miller and White] over such a short period of time – and for a professional space. They go above and beyond what they actually need to do for their job.”
Following White and Miller’s resignations, interim staff will cover their positions from March through the end of the semester and possibly into the summer, Alston said. “For the MRC, we’re working super closely with Jessika Chi, who [is the assistant dean for the Office of Institutional Diversity] and [Alston],” Castellanos said. “So they’re going to be more present in the MRC, physically, and they’re kind of watching over [the MRC student staff members] for the rest of the year and next year along with the replacements.”
The search process to fill both positions with permanent staff will likely start in March, and Alston will spend the majority of the rest of the semester in the Student Center to try and provide support, he said. “Hopefully I’ve said it to [Miller] and [White] directly, but I really respect them as people and professionals and what they’ve contributed to this community,” Alston said. “I think it’s a big loss for us.”