Pomona College Neuroscience Professor Nicole Weekes was recently promoted to a full-time position as an Associate Dean of the College focusing on diversity issues on Pomona’s campus, particularly within the faculty and academic affairs department.
Weekes has a long history of working on successful diversity initiatives at Pomona. During a previous term as an Associate Dean of Faculty, she worked to increase diversity in faculty recruitment across Pomona’s departments.
“She has been at the center of a lot of the initiatives over the years, most specifically around the push to diversify our faculty,” said Associate Dean and Title IX Coordinator Daren Mooko, who has worked with Weekes on diversity initiatives in the past.
Weekes’ new position came out of an institutional desire for more clearly defined coordination and leadership in Pomona’s diversity initiatives.
Pomona President David Oxtoby had a “desire for a chief diversity officer,” said Associate Dean for Student Mentoring and Leadership Ric Townes. According to Townes, Oxtoby sees Weekes as filling that role. Townes, who has been involved in diversity initiatives at Pomona throughout his time at the school, has been serving as an unofficial advisor and consultant to Weekes in her new role.
Weekes defines her responsibilities and new position primarily with regards to her relationship with the Pomona faculty.
“I am really the Diversity Officer for the Faculty. This means that my primary responsibility is to work with my Faculty Colleagues to continue to diversify the faculty ranks…My second (and also highly critical role) is to work with my faculty colleagues to make every classroom, lab, performance space feel supportive and welcoming of all of our students,” Weekes wrote in an email to TSL.
Weekes believes that the importance of diversity issues necessitated the creation of a full-time diversity position in the Dean of Faculty’s office.
“Increasingly, it became clear that the College really needed to have at least one person who could spend 100% of their time and energy on the promise of diversity and inclusion…If I wanted to do diversity and do it well, it was clear that I needed to do so full time,” Weekes wrote.
Another important aspect of Weekes’ promotion is that she will now chair the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (PAC-D). This committee coordinates various diversity projects on Pomona’s campus.
“[PAC-D] is the funnel for diversity initiatives at Pomona,” Townes said.
PAC-D organized Pomona’s Community Dinner on Sept. 9, and is planning other events, according to Townes. Promoting events like these to bring the campus together has been a priority for Weekes in her new role.
“She’s interested in broader opportunities for the campus to get together and…have conversations around issues,” Mooko said.
Weekes is also focused on creating a classroom environment in which discussion about diversity can flourish, and in which the burden of educating faculty and students about social issues does not fall on the students themselves.
“Students often are asked to lead our diversity efforts in ways that I believe are unfair and burdensome to them. I am all for student activism, but the fact that [students] so often have to become the teachers of learned experience is an indictment on those of us who are paid to be educators,” Weekes wrote in an email to TSL. “We need to create a supportive environment where we educate ourselves deeply enough that students do not feel as though they need to take the podium.”
Weekes’ colleagues agree that she was an ideal choice to lead diversity initiatives at Pomona.
“I think they found the right person for what they had in mind. Her experience at the college is going to be extremely valuable,” Mooko said. “I know that [diversity] is a priority in her professional life and I think it’s going to be very good for the college.”
Mooko spoke about Weekes’ skills in communicating and working with various interest groups on campus.
“She knows how to get things done. She has a tremendous ability to understand different constituency groups,whether that be faculty and staff, students, the different departments; and across different identities, she has a way of understanding and knowing how to work with different constituency groups,” Mooko said.
Mooko also praised Weekes’ dedication to Pomona and desire to see it improve.
“She has a very strong loyalty to the college in a way that keeps pushing the college to be better than it currently is. She thinks this is a great place and will use every last bit of energy in her day to make it better than it currently is,” Mooko said.
Since diversity continues to be a top priority at Pomona, announcements about more diversity-related staff changes, initiatives, and programs are forthcoming, according to Mooko.