Dion Crommarty (pictured) was recently hired as the Diversity Center Coordinator. Crommarty has experience in higher education at Bloomsburg University, Penn State University, the University of Alaska-Anchorage and the University of Montana.
We sat down with Crommarty to learn about his path to WSU Spokane and his vision for the Diversity Center.
Q: Tell us about your professional path to WSU Spokane
A: I started in Residence Life and it’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades. You do diversity programs, you do wellness programs, you do so many different things. That kind of led me here.
I grew up in Philadelphia and went to school out there. I started working at Penn State and working out there, I kind of got thrown into the diversity piece a little bit. Being an R.A. (Resident Advisor), people would always ask me, “So Dion, what do you think about diversity?” It kind of paved my pathway into diversity.
I think as an R.A. I always wanted everybody to have a good experience and to feel welcomed, so I always wanted to be inclusive. Inviting everyone and learning new things kind of started my path to here.
I’ve had a couple other professional positions throughout my career and just being able to meet a lot of people with different backgrounds has been great.
A: First, I want to get everybody together. I’ve talked to a lot of students and a lot of them want to come together and have a place where they can all work together from different colleges. I think for me, I see it as a place where students can come to study, to hang out and also get that education or leadership opportunity. It’s almost like a multi-faceted place.
I have a five-year vision plan and the beginning part is finding out the mission and vision and our values. I kind of came up with something but when someone comes in I have them look at it and say, “What do you think?” and kind of have them edit it as we go.
The beginning of the vision is to get people here, to get people interested in the Diversity Center and get students together so they can have something to call their own.
Q: This is a new position on campus. How does it feel to be starting something rather than continuing what someone else started?
A: I love things like this. I’ve done that multiple times, especially in Residence Life where maybe some program fell to the side or something. Coming in and creating something new is awesome because for me, I can rely on the different people in leadership like Yvonne Montoya Zamora and Jim Mohr. I think they’ve been great resources and it’s been great to pick their brains.
The Diversity Center was an empty room when I first started and I was like, “What do I do?” But now we have couches, we’re getting a TV in a few weeks, so it’s a space where people can just relax. I think it’s exciting because I can stop what I’m doing when someone is in there and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” and talk to them and see what they like.
We have a board where people can show what they want to see in the Diversity Center and hopefully we can start doing some of that stuff in this next year. I’m excited to see where this stuff goes.
Q: Does WSU Spokane’s unique student body (average age is 27.5 and almost all students are in a health sciences program) make this job different than one at a more traditional university setting?
A: I’ve worked at traditional college campuses where students lived on campus, and students don’t live on campus here. For me, I like that because it’s a challenge. I have to work to get people to come in because after they get done with classes, they’re probably going home and they probably don’t come back unless they have to go to class.
That’s a good challenge that we have and it’s great to work with the different programs. I think it’s unique with the different programs and colleges that we have. I’ve already talked with some students and they want to do things with those in other programs. We can have students who are in their last years of their programs come in and talk to students who are just starting out and might be nervous or scared. That’s one of the things I want to work with our students on and maybe start a mentor program.
Our students are really engaged and knowledgeable but using our resources and getting them to the Diversity Center so we can promote ourselves is something we need to do to let everyone know where we’re at.
Q: You have experience in Philadelphia, Alaska and Montana – three very different locales. How do your life experiences there help you in this role?
A: I think just learning about different people and different cultures has been awesome. The one reason why I really liked moving to Alaska is, being from the east coast, you don’t really get to work with Alaskan Natives or Native Americans. Being in Alaska was really awesome because you had the Alaskan Native population and people from different backgrounds all working together to try and make their lives better. It was really cool being able to see that.
As you know, people from the east coast are a little bit different than people from the west coast (laughs) and we’re all from different backgrounds with different styles and different customs. It’s awesome being able to see that and being able to travel.
I’ve been to 37 different states so far and it’s great being able to see how different customs and different backgrounds come together and then celebrate that.
Wherever I’m needed or wherever I feel is calling me is where I’m going to be. I think it’s an awesome experience to learn about new cultures and be able to see things. It was fun trying different foods in the Alaskan Native culture and in Montana seeing a different culture they have there.
Coming here I think Spokane is a very diverse place. Seeing the different cultures, the different marches and programs in the community is awesome.
The Student Diversity Center can be found in SAC 141C