Introducing Dr. Karnell McConnell-Black, Vice President of Student Life

A Holistic Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Photo Courtesy of Karnell McConnell-Black

Photo Courtesy of Karnell McConnell-Black

Karnell McConnell-Black joined the Reed community on Friday, July 31, traveling all the way from Salt Lake City. His house was fully packed that Monday, his things loaded into moving vans on Tuesday, he began driving on Wednesday, the movers unpacked on Thursday, and he began working at Reed on Friday. Despite the quick turnaround and joining the community in an uncertain time, McConnell-Black arrived ready to put down roots in a new community. 

Before coming to Reed, McConnell-Black worked as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students for over a year at Westminster College, concluding his overall nine-year tenure at the Salt Lake City institution. McConnell-Black began working in orientation planning with little desire to assume a different role, but upon working with staff, faculty, and students to write policy empowering the most marginalized members of their community, McConnel-Black found a place where he could make an impact. He brings this strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) approach into all of his work, and throughout our 45 minutes together, he repeatedly emphasized that the institution as a whole benefits when an institution considers its most marginalized students as central to the experience of every student. 

McConnell-Black comes to Reed having finished his doctorate and with a passion for making an impact in a new community. When asked about how he handles difficult conversations, especially those concerning student dissent, McConnell-Black referenced his doctoral work, researching the history of how institutions interact with protest. When answering how he might handle interactions with protests at Reed or with people who dissent with decisions that he makes as Vice-President, McConnell-Black highlighted the ability of a small community to bring different perspectives together and to consider everyone as human even in our disagreements. He stressed that diverse opinions are an important part of learning both inside and outside of the classroom. McConnell-Black believes in the importance of dialogue, and emphasized that when someone in a community puts demands together, they should be listened to. McConnell-Black also emphasized the importance of staff and faculty working together both on committees, and in holistically supporting students.

McConnell-Black completed an Ed. D. before joining the Reed community, which he described as more practical as opposed to a Ph. D. in education, which is more theoretical. His thesis was titled, “The corporatization of student affairs, student success in neoliberal times,” and it examined the tendency of educational institutions to treat students as consumers as opposed to individuals in need of support. Reed’s reputation preceded it, as McConnell-Black heard about Reed as having excellent students and that the institution as a whole was selective and holistic in its development, involving broad portions of the community to ensure student success. 

McConnell-Black is excited to be a member of our community, despite adapting to Reed during the time of COVID. He comes excited to explore Portland—as much as one can—and looks forward to making a positive impact on the Reed community.

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