Longtime equity scholar and advocate to lead antiracism efforts
November 17, 2021
Mia Settles-Tidwell is ready to lead Sacramento State’s charge toward becoming an antiracist university, but she says she cannot do it alone.
“We’re never going to get rid of bias, because we all have it,” said Settles-Tidwell, Sac State’s new vice president for Inclusive Excellence and the University’s diversity officer. “But together, we can create a campus where everyone feels a sense of care and belonging.”
The process already has begun. Last year, 80 students, faculty, and staff members developed the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan, designed to be a roadmap for sustainable change.
Settles-Tidwell and her team will lead the effort to gather further input from the campus community through informal “roadshows” and “circles” that begin at the end of November and culminate in an Antiracism Convocation on Friday, Feb. 25. The team plans to audit University procedures and practices, including those pertaining to the retention and experiences of people of color, and set timelines for implementing key changes.
“We all need to be self-aware and reflective, and actively dismantle practices” that contribute to exclusion and erode a sense of belonging, she said. “We need to really look at how we are including or excluding people.”
Settles-Tidwell has been thinking about her privileges and the effects of racism, sexism, and “classism” since she was a young girl growing up in the Bay Area. She attended honors classes, was a high school and college cheerleader, and received the encouragement and support she needed to succeed. However, other students whose families were less privileged than hers often were left behind.
“I began asking myself the question, ‘Why am I being given open doors, when others are not?’” she said. She concluded that privilege played a role, and decided she could use her privilege to be an agent of change.
Settles-Tidwell comes to Sac State with a strong background in equity and advocacy work for underserved communities.
She earned a bachelor of arts in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, and a master’s in Educational Leadership and a doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from CSU East Bay.
Following in the footsteps of her mother, Queen, she worked in the Oakland Unified School District for more than two decades as a teacher, principal and network officer for the district. She ended her K-12 career as its first Black female chief operating officer.
In recent years, she has served as assistant vice chancellor and chief of staff for Equity and Inclusion at UC Berkeley. During her tenure, she curated and led the Disability Strategy Team, and consulted on various diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives.
“Dr. Settles-Tidwell has a record of challenging institutions to examine inequitable practices, and has extensive experience removing barriers that impede success for students, staff, and faculty,” said Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen, adding, she is “just what the Hornet Family needs right now.”.
Settles-Tidwell will oversee a division that includes the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Office of Inclusive Excellence, with three new directors who have all joined the University in recent months.
Katherine Betts, director of Belonging Education and Support, leads the effort to increase belonging on campus and address and heal discriminatory experiences against individuals and groups on campus.
Betts most recently led African and African American Initiatives in the Multicultural Center at The Ohio State University.
Robert Reyes, director of Inclusive Excellence Learning, came to Sac State from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he worked as a diversity and inclusion specialist, designing and developing workshops for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.
At Sac State, he oversees opportunities and programs in the classroom that support the University’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Lina Rincon, director of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, received her doctorate from the State University of New York at Albany and served as an associate professor at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Her research focuses on understanding the experiences of people of color in various fields, including higher education.
In her new role, she leads and coordinates professional development programs for faculty that create inclusive and equitable practices in curricula, recruitment, tenure, and promotion.
The team, said Settles-Tidwell, is “eager and ready to engage the campus” on issues around racism and other forms of oppression.“We have a core of individuals who are committed to doing amazing things, with the help of people all across the University,” she said. “These are not just words. We are ready to get to work, and we really want to get things done.”
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