Leadership Summit for Campus Inclusivity at Westfield State University


Image source: Westfield State University.

Jason Brewster, Staff Writer

WESTFIELD – Westfield State Student leaders have helped organize a Leadership Summit in April to further the progress of campus inclusion.

On Saturday, April 15th, 2023, from 8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M., the Spring 2023 Student Leadership Summit will happen in the Ely Center Owl’s Nest.

This year’s event is a successor to the summit conducted in the summer of 2022, inspired by the Black Student Union’s plan of action to ease anxiety, hatred, political unrest, and social strife. 

“These beautiful student groups, in my mind, needed student leaders trained to address these issues,” said Father Warren Savage, Catholic Chaplain and director of the Interfaith Center. “So the most likely change would take place at the grassroots level with the students,” he added.

The WSU Communication Club and the Student Government Association have been involved in planning this weekend’s summit.

“I think it is a very important thing for the institution to keep doing,” said Rodney Duteau, the first vice president of Student Equity and a keynote speaker for the summit.

Communication students from last month’s Albert & Amelia Ferst Interfaith Breakfast. Image credit: WSU Department of Communication on Facebook.

“One of the biggest things I want to talk about is how a major equity issue within our campus is the lack of community,” Duteau said. 

Colleen Mullica, social justice outreach coordinator of the Interfaith Center, explained that having a space for students to develop necessary communication skills will ripple effect in the world’s future.

“We need people who are not afraid to stand up in the face of adversity and speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves or have their dignity diminished or taken away from them,” Mullica said.

Savage explained that this year’s event builds on the skills of listening to understand instead of listening to formulate a response, but with a greater emphasis “to discern onto action.”

“This summit will focus on not just refining the recommendations but building a structure,” he said, “making it clear that the students should have a voice and a part to play,” he added.

The Interfaith Center, which sponsored the event, received a $5,000 funding grant from Interfaith Youth Core of Chicago. 

“We applied for another grant to build upon that, so we got another $5,000 to do this year’s student leadership summit because they were so impressed with the summer report we sent to them,” Savage said.

He also explained that he wants a student leadership summit to happen each year. “It’s a daunting challenge, but I think the goal is to make sure all aspects of campus life is aware of its obligation to have the right relationship with people,” he said.

Duteau stressed how many of us contribute to the issue and claimed that inclusive cross-disciplinary communication is vital to foster an environment “where everybody has a seat.” 

“In many ways, we live in a campus where we all live in our own silos,” he said, “we see somebody that’s by themselves or an issue that has nothing to do with us – we just pass it aside,” he added. 

Duteau also urged student leaders to spread the word and stand up in the face of injustice. Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) could sound complex, but they reflect a vision for a better future.

Savage explained the mission of J.E.D.I. “It’s clear from the priorities and goals that they want to create a culture of respect, compassion, and care that embraces and welcomes diversity of people,” he said. “That’s the real goal of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. It’s to make sure everybody benefits, not just a few,” he added.

The Albert and Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center provides outreach programs and opportunities for the campus community, such as spiritual counseling by appointment. It is open 24/7 for all campus students. You can follow J.E.D.I on Instagram at @westfieldstatejedi or the Communication Club on Instagram at @wsucommclub.