Dr. Daleah Goodwin Steps into New Position to Direct Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives


Ian Ibarra/Echo Contributor

Daleah Goodwin teaching a group of first-year students in her class: Resistance, Freedom, Activism.

Daleah Goodwin, Ph.D., became the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at Warren Wilson College in July. 

Goodwin has served as a professor of history at Warren Wilson for the past five years. As a member of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) faculty at the college, Goodwin said she entered this new role to be an advocate of change for the campus and raise the voices of BIPOC community members. 

“(The work is to support and) advocate for BIPOC students and (make) sure that their quality of life on campus is something that is positive, something that is sustainable and something that they can appreciate,” Goodwin said.

For clarity, the director of DEI initiatives is separate from Wilson Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (WIDE). Goodwin’s role as director does not specify direct work with students. Nevertheless, she worked with students this semester while acting in a supporting role during the hiring process for a new WIDE director and the creation of a vice presidential role for DEI work. However, students do inform Goodwin’s work as director. 

Alongside her work advocating for students, Goodwin also supports BIPOC faculty and staff, and she participates in a new DEI advisory committee. This committee includes a range of faculty, staff and student voices to help implement DEI on campus. For example, one of their roles helps different areas of the college establish DEI goals.

The office of DEI initiatives serves all students, meaning Goodwin works with the Indigenous Student Association (ISA), Latinx Student Collective, Black Student Union (BSU) and all other affinity groups. 

While acting as the director, Goodwin pulls strength from her studies of Hallie Quinn Brown, a revolutionary Black woman from the 19th century who fought for education access for Black women, women’s suffrage and anti-lynching crusades, to name a few. There are parallels between their work, according to Goodwin.

“I am fighting for equal educational access for, not only issues (relating) specifically (to) Black women, but for all racial and diversity groups,” said Goodwin. 

President Lynn Morton, Ph.D., who is in her fourth year as president of the college, explained that the work of DEI is twofold, having multiple advantages. 

“(The role as director of DEI) is a close connection with a DEI advisory committee that can sit together on a regular basis, discuss what we can do proactively, talk about things that are happening on campus and really help forge the path forward,” Morton said. “(They) raise awareness everywhere they go in their work – in their own offices, in their own units, in their own conversations with faculty and staff and sometimes with students. They will raise awareness of the work that’s going on and also be able to bring back to the group impressions or concerns.” 

The groundwork of the committee, their objectivity and the fact that they are not necessarily rooted in the administration indicates importance, Morton said. 

DEI conversations are not new for the college. As Morton explained, conversations around diversity have occurred since before her arrival and have been informed by her previous work in DEI at Queen’s University of Charlotte. The DEI initiatives are a part of Warren Wilson College’s 2022 Strategic Plan, which focuses on providing a platform of growth for the college in regards to identity, academic excellence, diversity and sustainability. The third initiative involves DEI work. 

However, according to Morton, little action came from past conversations as the administration debated the various positions they could implement in the college, such as a diversity officer compared to a vice president of diversity. 

Now, the nation is in the midst of a reckoning, Morton said, and the BSU demands of 2020 served as a catalyst for the administration to move faster. 

There are mixed reactions about the work of DEI initiatives on campus due to the perceived lack of previous action from administration.

“DEI initiatives are… complicated,” said Liz Patton, a junior and member of the BSU leadership. “DEI initiatives run on a different timeline than the timeline of students. I don’t really see the (initiatives) playing out actively as I would like to see them.” 

Patton said there seems to be a lot of conversation but no movement forward, making it frustrating as a student.

“(The school should be able to) ensure that BIPOC community members feel seen, heard, and honored on campus,” Patton said. 

Currently, the work of DEI feels like a bandage to Patton, who believes that antiracist work involves dismantling hierarchies. However, Patton also believes that having DEI initiatives seems like a good first step for the college, and they are excited to have Goodwin as the director. 

Goodwin said she is hopeful that this position will be beneficial for the campus climate and culture.

“I would hope that whenever there is an unfortunate issue of racial injustice that the administration and the overall college would take it seriously, and they would move swiftly to enact some form of justice and to ensure that those types of things do not happen, again,” Goodwin said. 

For more information, visit the Warren Wilson College website for updates on the BSU and ISA Demands or follow these links: Response to ISA Demands Response to BSU Demands