Commitment to Diversity

 

Diversity and inclusion are central to the work that I do as a theatre teacher, administrator and artist. As an individual who identifies as Gay and Latino, personal experiences in various circumstances created first-hand knowledge of what it means to be marginalized. When I began writing plays in earnest while in graduate school, I wrote from my personal experience and without intention, learned that I was contributing to “Diversity” in theatre by offering characters and themes that explored the two major areas of my identity. I began to learn more about other writers whose works represented marginalized voices. My first academic appointment was at the University of Texas at El Paso, where I had the privilege of instructing at an institution of approximately 80% Hispanic student body. In service to the community and as a means of creating effective experiential learning for students, I made it a point to direct plays that explored the Latina/o experience. I also created the Latino Guest Artist Program and received funding from the College of Liberal Arts to bring notable Latina/o artists to the Department of Theatre for workshops, symposia, and lectures. My work as a marketing executive for Broadway productions was initially focused on diversifying audiences. As I conducted more and more work in areas of theatre diversity I gained an understanding of theatre’s important role in society as a transformative artform, and I also learned about the social and economic constructs at work that challenge the American theatre in terms of building diverse audiences and providing space for writers of color. Throughout the years, I have continued my professional and personal development by reading critical race theory, queer theory and feminist theory. I stay abreast of new voices in the American Theatre, particularly writers of color and underrepresented identities. My appointment as an assistant professor at the University of Vermont in 2006 began with a three year commitment to create a set of courses that explored diversity related themes in the theatre. I created and taught Diversity in the Contemporary American Theater, Contemporary Latina/o Theatre, and LBTG themes in Theatre. I was appointed Director of the ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies Program (currently Critical Race and Ethnic Studies) in 2010 and served in that capacity through 2012 when I assumed the position of Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre. I chaired the College of Arts and Sciences Strategic Plan Diversity and Inclusion Committee and I currently serve on the College’s Diversity Task Force. I’ve had the privilege of championing diversity-related issues in my community while continuing my on-going personal cultural competency development. I have organized and facilitated sensitive forums and discussions among faculty, staff and students in these areas. I believe we are at a turning point in America regarding issues of race, marginalization, access, and identity. The institution is a vital site to explore, engage in discussions, and transform minds toward a different understanding of what we may perceive as “otherness.” I remain dedicated in my pursuit of supporting diversity and inclusion and maintain the perspective that our daily actions are effective means of changing the world. I aim to take my philosophy into the day to day both within and outside the institution. Each day provides us an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop into better, more compassionate and enlightened individuals.

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