All three permanent staff members of the Intercultural Community Center (ICC)—Assistant Dean for Intercultural Affairs Paula Crisostomo, Assistant Director for Intercultural Affairs Dominic Alleto and Program Coordinator for Intercultural Affairs Sean Ford—have departed since the end of last semester. The current staff is using the departures as an opportunity to make departmental changes that have been discussed since last year, but the timing of situation still blindsided many in the organization.
“Everyone was pretty shocked about people leaving on such short notice,” ICC Programming Assistant (PA) Serena Stuve (senior) said.
To help fill the roles vacated by Crisostomo, Alletto and Ford, Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) professor Sherry Simpson-Dean has stepped in as the ICC’s interim dean.
“There’s a huge opportunity, with three people having departed … and it would be silly to not take on a perspective of seeing what could be improved,” Simpson-Dean said. “What’s working, what’s not working and what’s missing?”
Crisostomo, who retired prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year, was the first of the permanent staff to leave. PA Frances Delfin (sophomore) credits her for creating the framework of the program and working with English and American studies Professor Eric Newhall to co-found the Multicultural Summer Institute program.
Next to leave was Alletto, who took a position as a Career Counselor at the Career Development Center. By doing so, he hopes to maximize his impact on the Occidental community.
“I considered the transition for a few months,” Alletto said. “I thought long about how the CDC would be a great opportunity for me to utilize my skills and passion to support students in a new capacity at Oxy.”
Ford left his eight-year post at the ICC to start a new career as a software developer in Silicon Valley.
“I left because I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime,” Ford said. “I’m managing the production of new software which is going to transform the way higher education does business.”
While there are currently no plans to fill Ford’s position, the school has started a national search to replace Alletto. A search committee, composed of Occidental students, staff and faculty, is currently reviewing resumes for the assistant director of intercultural affairs position, according to Simpson-Dean. Simpson-Dean also specified that PAs would be part of the interview process for the position.
Due to her demanding schedule, Simpson-Dean has only committed herself to the ICC for the remainder of the academic year, according to PA Danielle Raskin (sophomore). It is unclear what will happen to her position after she leaves, Raskin said.
Currently, the ICC employs seven student PAs, Simpson-Dean and administrative assistant Leslie Clay, according to Delfin. Raskin said the outflow of professional staff has forced the ICC to cut back on their usual programming so that student workers can manage the workload.
But some programs will be strengthened, including the First Generation Success Program, the Multicultural Summer Institute continuation program and support services for equity and social justice groups, according to Delfin. The department is also bringing in a graduate student to assist with some of these new programs.
“There were literally over 100 programs that were carried out by the ICC in one way shape or form over the last year,” Simpson-Dean said. “So a lot of the work we’re doing is in tightening up our relationships with the existing cultural clubs and creating a format where we can be of service to the existing cultural clubs.”
According to Simpson-Dean, the ICC is looking to collaborate not only with cultural clubs, but also with campus bodies such as Residential Education and Housing Services to create more streamlined programming.
“We want to really see where we can be a contribution without reinventing the wheel, and also where we can make the most of the programming assistants’ time,” Simpson-Dean said.
With all of the recent changes to the department, some of the student workers are still wondering exactly what their role will look like.
“Everything’s kind of in the air right now,” Stuve said.
Simpson-Dean praised the PAs as being extraordinarily committed to improving the campus climate, but agreed that all of the roles in the department were in a process of development.
“When you’ve got a limited number of people, and things you want to expand, it’s natural to look at reallocating of roles and where we want to place emphasis and things like that,” Simpson-Dean said. “Very rarely do you get to take a step back and do an assessment, and I think that’s what this has allowed us to do.”