Keshia Booker on diversity and belonging

Published by Megan John, Date: November 7, 2022
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After five years working in multicultural development at SRU, Keshia Booker is bringing her expertise to the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). 

Booker originally came to the university for her master’s degree in mental health counseling. After working as a graduate assistant, she accepted the assistant director of multicultural development position in the Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIE). 

“It was an opportunity to give back to students who looked like me,” Booker said. “Coming from a small, private liberal arts school, there weren’t a lot of students who identified as people of color. Being here at Slippery Rock, believe it or not, it was an increase of heritage and exposure to culture that was similar to mine, and also different than mine.” 

“I wanted to give students [cultural] experiences as well. That was primarily the focus of my multicultural development job, … creating opportunities for cultural and social identities to be represented on campus, as well as providing opportunities for majority students to have conversations in a safe and secure format such as Diversity Dialogues.” 

During her time with OIE, she created and implemented Diversity Dialogues, events on campus that provide forums for open discussion about intersectional topics. 

When Booker learned about the open assistant director position, she saw an opportunity for growth in her career. 

“I thoroughly enjoy our students, and I love the work that I’ve done with students,” she said. “This was a way that I could stay, continue doing diversity work, but also … grow professionally.” 

As part of the DEIB office, Booker plans to concentrate on the belonging aspect. 

“I think the most interesting part of this office to me is that it has a focus on belonging, and belonging is different than just recognizing diversity,” she said. “It’s a step beyond.” 

“A lot of people will say that we do great diversity programming, and we do. I don’t know if all of our students, particularly our underrepresented students, will say they feel like they belong. Making an opportunity for them to feel just as important, just as [much] a part of Slippery Rock culture, as anyone else is something I’m passionate about.” 

Booker officially began her new position on Oct. 24. Her current projects include a search advocate program, designed to avoid bias in the university’s hiring process; reworking the office’s mission statement to reflect their goals; and a discovery program for high school students. 

The discovery program shows high school students all that Slippery Rock has to offer, according to Booker. Student groups meet with faculty, staff, students and OIE. After the visit, they will continue sending SRU-related correspondence to keep them interested in Slippery Rock and hopefully get them to apply, Booker said.

She said diversity work is the basis on which we can learn to respect each other.

“In many places, people are not going to look like you, and you’re going to have to be able to recognize [and appreciate] their differences and work with them,” she continued. “The way our country is headed, diversity work is going to continue to be important.”

“If we can respect each other’s differences, then we can really respect the work and the people in front of us.” 

Booker hopes that the office will be judged based on what it does, not others’ interpretations. 

“I think Slippery Rock is a wonderful campus, but there’s always room for growth,” she said. “Making sure that I’m advocating for people who are disenfranchised in any way is important to me, and I think I’ll show that through my work.” 

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