Rod Bradley, Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs, has some ideas on why you may not have met him yet. “Everyone has to go the registrar. You need to take insurance records to the health center. You’ve got to live somewhere, so you go to residence life. And everyone comes through the admissions office. But the Diversity Center? You have to make a choice to deal with multiculturalism,” Bradley says of the blue house at the corner of Alton and Meade that houses his office and resources for students.
That choice is often implicit, but the ostrich mentality can reign supreme even at “liberal” arts colleges. Bradley’s job, then, is to help those people who have chosen to look up.
Bradley helps to co-curricularly support diversity in programming and admissions, and to ensure that all students feel their Lawrence University experience is a welcoming one.
It’s not exactly a 9 to 5 job. And at Lawrence University, sometimes you never know what will come your way. “Most students just go to the Dean of Students’ office first, when there are different spokes off that wheel that can help,” Bradley adds.
Typical days (like most college administrators, Bradley says these don’t exist) begin around nine or ten in the morning and can last until as late as ten at night. That’s when the students are available.
Religious or cultural organizations, including the collective Black, Latino, and Asian student organizations, often use the center or bounce ideas off of Bradley. Other political groups, like Amnesty International, make use of the center, as do Gay Lesbian Or Whatever and the Downer Feminist Council, among many other groups.
One of the things Bradley has done since coming here July 2001 is to begin an informal “executive roundtable” between these groups, so that – although they celebrate their own organization’s tenets – they can start to learn organizational techniques and appreciate differences between one another.
That’s once students get in the door, though.
Few would argue that Lawrence University possesses a student body that, in the language of many recruiters, “looks like America,” or even the Midwest, in its ethnic makeup. Strangely, though, Bradley didn’t seem to be mired in a numbers game of x percent African-American, x percent Latino, x percent Asian, etc.
“What we’re after is diverse thinking persons,” Bradley explains. Bradley has practice searching for such people. After growing up in Chicago and attending Illinois State University through grad work, Bradley spent five years in student affairs and two in recruitment. Lawrence University provided a challenge. For Lawrence, he often tries to augment the work of Clinton Foster, who directs Multicultural Recruitment; Bradley will attend a college fair or two each year, normally in the Chicagoland area.
“We have to be realistic. We have to say ‘This is not like home.’ … We need to make every effort to be welcoming, but we can’t have people thinking that when you walk in the door, everything is going to be okay,” Bradley said. Students of any background, he says, need to be asked: “What do you bring to the table?