Tag Archives: Romeo Azondekon

Diversity Committee Continues To Expand Inclusivity, Diversity

More “safe” spaces and ethnic studies are being considered for Central Penn

By Yuliani Sutedjo

Knightly News Reporter

and

Michael Lear-Olimpi

Knightly News Co-adviser

After three and a half years of discussion and research, Central Penn College recently installed a gender-neutral restroom to expand inclusiveness and diversity on campus.

The gender-neutral restroom is one of four among significant campus inclusivity initiatives the committee has been working on recently.

The restroom:

  • Accommodates the personal needs of transgender people.
  • Recognizes the views of people who do not identify with a gender.
  • Provides families of any gender composition a restroom for more than one member to use at the same time.

“It wasn’t just my idea, but also the Diversity Committee, who wanted to improve the school and look to open another safe space for inclusion and diversity,” said Romeo Azondekon, chief diversity officer, of the gender-neutral restroom.

The Diversity Committee consists of Central Penn faculty and staff members, and usually has a student representative.

Initiative 1 – easier equal access

The first initiative was to make doors at Central Penn accessible for people with a condition or illness that prevents them from opening doors without some assistance.

Automatic door-opening buttons were installed in the Advanced Technology Education Center (ATEC) in the second half of last year.

Previously, the doors were operated remotely by someone inside ATEC at the reception desk.

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Yuliani Sutedjo, communications major, and Lester McMillan, an entrepreneurship major, wash their hands in a gender-neutral restroom on Central Penn campus, Feb. 17, 2017. Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong

Initiative 2 – the gender-neutral restroom

Azondekon said the gender-neutral restroom was created not because there was a problem, but because such an accommodation is a part of Central Penn’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

“We believe in inclusiveness and diversities,” Azondekon said.

Personnel from Central Penn’s Facilities Department converted the men’s restroom on the second floor of ATEC into the gender-neutral restroom, which includes two urinals in stalls for privacy, and two toilets in stalls.

A black-on-gray sign outside the restroom says “Gender Neutral” in English and in Braille, and features silhouettes with clothing shapes that traditionally have represented a woman and a man, and one with half-male and half-female traditional clothing attributes, suggesting transgender individuals.

The room is also accessible to people in wheelchairs and with limited walking ability.

The sign outside of the ATEC Bathroom in the second floor lobby. Photo by Sy Pinthong.

The sign outside of the ATEC Bathroom in the second floor lobby showing the Gender Neutral designation. Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong.

The ATEC facility is in addition to two nongender-designated and handicapped-accessible restrooms in the Charles “T.” Jones Leadership Library. All restrooms in ATEC are handicapped-accessible.

The Health Sciences Building has a designated men’s room, women’s room and nongender-designated restroom, though it is not labeled “gender neutral,” according to Dr. Krista Wolfe, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The difference between gender-neutral and other nongender-designated restrooms is that the former are for people of any gender identification and the latter are generally for anyone to use one person at a time, or for family members to use together, such as when a parent or guardian is with a child who requires adult supervision or assistance.

Azondekon said the Diversity Committee hopes more gender-neutral restrooms will be established on campus.

“(We’re considering) at least one gender neutral restroom in each education building,” he explained.

The campus has a gender-neutral Super Suite, according to Title IX Officer Megan Peterson, who until recently was director of residence life. The unit is one of three themed residences to which students who qualify must apply to live. The others are for Lady Knight basketball players and one for the alumni association, of which current students can be members.

Initiative 3 – ethnic studies

Committee members are working on the third initiative, establishing an ethnic studies program.

“We’d like to have an ethnic studies track at some point,” said Maria James-Thiaw, professor of writing and a member of the Diversity Committee. “It’s something for the future, to better prepare students for the diverse workplaces and world they’ll be entering.”

When such a program would debut at Central Penn is not known.

Initiative 4 – a place to worship

Another project the Diversity Committee is working on is establishing an interfaith/nonfaith-specific prayer room, or other type of space where students can pray, meditate or engage in whatever reflective practice or ritual they choose.

“Some students expressed a desire to have a place where they can contemplate, or formally pray, that is private and quiet,” said Michael Lear-Olimpi, assistant professor of communication and a member of the Diversity Committee. “We have limited space on campus, and members of the committee and Mr. Azondekon have been talking with college officials, staff and faculty about where this space could be.”

Options that have been explored include sharing space with the campus courtroom, providing space in the library, and perhaps cordoning off space in campus housing. Each of these possibilities did not work out, though, because use of the proposed spots was heavier than widely known.

When a prayer space will open for use, or what it will be called or where it will be located, has yet to be determined. Azondekon said the search for a space continues.

“We need one,” he said. “It is important to people who want that.”

Change can take time

The gender-neutral restroom in ATEC was set up relatively quickly, because it involved modest alterations.

Other initiatives, such as establishing the prayer room, can take time because of specific logistics challenges, such as finding an appropriate place on a small campus.

“These initiatives are being discussed properly, and thought out thoroughly,” Azondekon said.


 

To comment on this story or to suggest one, contact KnightlyEditors@Centralpenn.edu.

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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The Central Penn College #IAM Campaign

Knightly News Secretary spearheads PSA Campaign for Initiative

By Paul Miller and Sarayuth Pinthong

Knightly News Secretary Sarayuth Pinthong offers a fantastic look at the #IAM campaign from The Office of Diversity and Global Education at Central Penn College as part of a project in his COM225:  Writing for Public Relations course.

The #IAM campaign is in support of their “Our Diversity” messaging in the fall term of 2016.

The campaign informed students and staff members about “going beyond the optics” and understanding our similarities and commonalities. Everyone’s responsible for diversity on campus.

For more information contact: Office of Diversity and Global Education at Central Penn College

Romeo Azondekon: 717-728-2437

romeoazondekon@centralpenn.edu

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The Knightly News Bids Norman Geary a Fond Goodbye

Geary gives final news podcast before graduation

By Paul Miller

Knightly News Co-Adviser

Knightly News Correspondent and former Vice President of the Media Club, Norman Geary, joined the Knightly News Podcast for his final news episode.

In the first segment, Geary discusses the recent Central Pennsylvania Employment Consortium (CPEC) job and internship fair, held Feb. 21, at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill.

While attending, Geary discussed some of the students he spoke with regarding the event, as well as giving unique insight to how to approach a job fair such as this.

Discussions also included a recap of the Knightly News’ recent open house and a debate about the feasibility of “Tuition Free” college education.

In the second segment, Romeo Azondekon, Chief Diversity Officer at Central Penn College, reviews the Black History Month Luncheon.

According to Azondekon, this luncheon was one of the most well attended events in the history of the college.

In addition, Azondekon highlights the upcoming Alternate Term Break, where Central Penn College students can venture to Toronto over the break between the winter and spring terms.

In Toronto, students will be immersed in the culture of the city, all while doing community service and offering students a unique opportunity without missing any classes.

The podcast is completed with a special note from the Knightly News Media Club to Geary.


Editor’s Note:  Geary has given a series of news podcasts over his last three terms and hopes to employ this experience at a future position after graduation.

Geary was one of the founding members of the Knightly News Media Club.

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Campus Forum: State of the Nation

Central Penn community discusses racial tension in America

 By Norman Geary

Media Club Reporter

Last month, Central Penn College held a campus forum in the Capital BlueCross Theatre to discuss student feelings on race relations in the nation, and recent conflicts between police and citizens, particularly between police and African-Americans.

The forum, State of the Nation, was an open discussion facilitated by Chief Diversity Officer Romeo Azondekon and Dean of Students Dave Baker.

The forum was suggested by a student.

Input from the campus community came from students, faculty, staff and administration on a range of social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

About 50 people attended through the two-hour session, with some coming and going as class and work schedules required. President Scolforo also attended.

“With the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ theme, it is a very positive and touchy subject,” communications student Keith Nixon said. “We are looking to make a change in the African-American world. As we have seen around the world, innocent black people are getting killed for no reason. (People are) being asked by police officers to follow the rules and do what you’re told, and people are following the rules, and still getting shot and killed in front of their families and on tape, for no reason.”

Some history

“Ever since the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin incident, there has been no justice for the black community,” Nixon added. “I do not know why. We did not ask to be here, if you get my drift. (It’s) not just that ‘Black Lives Matter’ – all lives matter. But mainly it’s been the black lives … that have been attacked, punished and killed. For what reasons, we cannot even explain. They are on videotape and yet our lovely justice system has seemed to look the other way. I just do not understand. What more has to take place to be equal? We are all equal; no one is above anyone.”

Gina Bianchini, an entrepreneur and investor who co-founded the social-network-building firm Ning and founded the similar company Mightybell, recently wrote an article on the topic of social movements. She posted the article on LinkedIn. Her remarks fit the mood and comments expressed at the Central Penn forum.

In her article, Bianchini said: “A movement requires members to take action – showing up for hearings, calling officials or writing op-eds. When you combine these actions in a community where people are building relationships with each other in chapters, teams or classes, the power gets obvious.”

“A hashtag does not create a movement — it simply raises awareness to attract followers,” she continued. “Over the long run, follows and shares do little to produce lasting loyalty or sustain change in politics, society or business. In practice, change only happens when followers are organized, such that the most passionate among them can meet each other and coordinate action.”

IT major Darryl Morgan offered perspective.

“Black Lives Matter is a much needed movement in this country today,” Morgan said. “Reading over the foundations of the movement online, there is a good focus and a good basis with the people that created the movement. The thing they need to work on is communication and organization. There are too many outside people that are using the name of the movement and causing more derogatory actions, violent actions and taking away other people’s rights in an effort to bring this subject to light.”

Blacklivesmatter.com lists 38 chapters nationally.

Dean Baker also offered perspective during the forum.

“I thought the event was great,” Baker said afterward. “I thought students showed a lot of courage. And staff shared their point of view, so I thought it was good. I think we should do a follow-up and continue the conversations.”

What needs to be done?

Business administration major Tyree Tucker provided his take on the forum.

“It’s time to stop talking about what we are going to do and (start) talking about ways to resolve the problem,” Tucker said “It’s simply getting up and resolving the problem. It starts from within, it starts from us. We say ‘Black Lives Matter’ – it starts with us, black people. Before you try to love everybody else, we first must love ourselves in order to make a change. If not, it’s useless, so for us to do that, we must first love ourselves, which means after we love ourselves, we can love everybody else.”

Tucker offered an example of how to model meaningful behavior.

“I believe with my actions, I can be a positive impact to my surroundings. So the people that I positively influenced, they can also have a positive influence on their surroundings. We are not going to be at the same place at the same time. So by me ‘showing that love’ on that brotherhood or sisterhood, it’s going to bring everybody together and, eventually, in my surroundings. We have to start from some point. You can’t do everything at once. Start out with something small and eventually the small things lead to bigger things.”

Romeo Azondekon, Central Penn’s chief diversity officer, provided some concluding comments.

“I think the purpose of the forum allows us to move past rhetoric and agendas and move toward solution oriented approaches. I think the theme behind it was ‘unity of the campus environment,’ but also something that can transition into what is happening outside of our campus.

“One of the things that I loved was everyone was not afraid or was open to sharing perspectives and actually hearing each other out. I think with what is going on in our society right now, not enough of us are being heard, or that we are being heard with the ear of resentment and disagreement. There is not a lot of love and embracing.”

Must we all agree?

“To embrace someone does not mean you have to agree with them, but you have to take their plight or their position as valid,” Azondekon said. “And I think that is what people are looking for. Yes, it was a good event, in my eyes.

“I was looking for a little more dialogue, but really feel, in summation, it exemplifies, again, keeping our campus intact, and not being afraid to have the conversation. Because a lot of college and universities would have avoided that kind of forum pretty quickly. But it shows where we are at as a college, which values diversity and inclusion at Central Penn College. We know a lot of these issues circle around that, one way or another.”

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Central Penn College Welcomes Local Artists

Art Association of Harrisburg Winter Soiree held in Capital BlueCross Theatre

By Christine Fusselman

Media Club Reporter

Central Penn hosted the first Winter Soiree of the Art Association of Harrisburg (AAH) in the Capital BlueCross Theatre on Jan. 31.

Visitors entering the black-box theater were drawn in by the striking artwork displayed on metal grid frames and a few tables throughout the room.

Central Penn’s own Danielle Klebes’ larger-than-life oil painted portraits were displayed front and center. Klebes has won Best in Show in the AAH Annual Figure Show two years in a row.

Her paintings included the familiar faces of Summerdale campus students “Kamal” and “Steve-O,” and another artist-in-residence, Dalton James, who is the college’s writing center director and her spouse. (Klebes uses the last name “James” in her personal and non-art professional life.)

“I feel like the painting describes me, because it’s big, like my personality,” quipped Steve “Steve-O” Osango.

According to Carrie Wissler-Thomas, AAH president and sales gallery manager, the association’s soirees, typically held throughout the summer at various homes and businesses, are designed as audience-builders and fundraisers. She added that the Central Penn show was the first AAH meet-the-artist soiree held on a college campus.

“The space surprised me,” said jewelry artist Alonna Marie Columbo. “It is a great space. The exposed dark ceiling … is simple and elegant. It is a beautiful space to display fine art.”

Columbo displayed her handcrafted jewelry, some of which was made with gold sandstone and tiger’s eye.

Sarah Davidson, who works in the Central Penn marketing department, shared her photography, which she said included “examples of nature in all forms of life, from beginning to decay.”

Davidson said the show was a “very nice way to mingle with local artists and other members of the community.”

Dustin Nispel and Jessica Flynn, two owners of The Rooted Artist Collective, in York, shared their talents from the theater’s stage. Both worked on paintings during the show, with previously painted works nearby, but also took some time to present a poetic duetNispel and Flynn performed “Bottom of the Blossom,” a poem that won them first place in an international poetry contest in Macedonia in October. According to Nispel, the trip to Macedonia required some serious fundraising, but was an incredible experience, which included touring a mosque built around 1406.

 Jessica Flynn and Dustin Nispel performing a poetic duet, “Bottom of the Blossom.”

Jessica Flynn and Dustin Nispel performing a poetic duet, “Bottom of the Blossom.”

Nispel’s book of poems, “The Tower,” and Flynn’s poetry book, “Through the Cracks,” are both published by Poem Sugar Press and available on Amazon.com.

Representing the art of music with his combination of electronic and international traditional instruments, including a Chinese Hulusi, poet, painter and musician Jonathan Frazier entertained the audience with a variety of melodies.

Frazier said he has “always played keys and guitar,” but his collection of international instruments began developing more recently with his purchase of a flute from the annual Native American Pow Wow held during Harrisburg’s Kipona Festival.

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Painter, illustrator and musician, Jonathan Frazier entertained soiree guests with international instruments such as a Chinese Hulusi shown here.

Frazier, a former Central Penn adjunct instructor, also works as an illustrator when he is not playing music.

AAH member Andrew Guth presented a sampling of his work with block printing at the soiree. Guth’s colorful shapes were displayed on fabric bags and framed prints. His work can be viewed at the Millworks in midtown Harrisburg, where he leases studio space.

Guth felt the “vibe” was different than that at the typical soiree, but said, “The staff and president were very welcoming.”

Romeo Azondekon, Central Penn’s director of cultural diversity, displayed some framed works in mixed media.

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Central Penn College’s Chief Diversity Officer, Romeo Azondekon, shared his artwork which combines bursts of color and texture.

Local photographer Mary Fox also exhibited.

“This may be the start of a wonderful tradition,” according to Matt Lane, director of the Central Penn College Education Foundation.

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