WSU hires new director of Community, Equity and Inclusive Excellence

Executive Director Allen Sutton plans to increase student engagement



Allen Sutton, pictured above, will start as the executive director for the department of Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence in WSU’s Office of Outreach and Education July 15.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

WSU’s Office of Outreach and Education has named an executive director to lead its Community, Equity and Inclusive Excellence department.

Allen Sutton will begin his tenure as the department’s director on July 15. He’s leaving Auburn University in Alabama, where he worked as the director of the Cross Cultural Center for Excellence since 2014.

“The Pacific Northwest has a different flavor of diversity compared to the southern part of the country,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to start from scratch and explore the country.”

Jaime Nolan, the associate vice president of Community, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, said Sutton’s hiring is a part of the university’s effort to strengthen its inclusive campus climate.

Nolan said student protests across the nation and at WSU over the last few years sparked her department to assess and restructure its programs and services.

“WSU responded well to the call to action,” she said.

Five culture and climate working groups made up of faculty, staff and students were created to help respond to that call. Nolan said these groups specialize in different areas. These areas are gender inclusion and transgender support, diversity of faculty and staff, campus cultural and resource centers, cultural competency and WSU Executive Policy 15- the prohibition of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct.

She said many of the changes made piloted last spring or will be implemented this summer.

“The process of piloting has been a very good thing for our community,” she said. “Our goal is to allow everyone to see the efforts we’ve made.”

Nolan said there were efforts made to create training for faculty and staff around inclusion. She said Equity 101 is one example of a university-wide program that is currently in the process of being implemented. According to the campus Culture and Climate website, an Equity 102 and Equity 103 are also being implemented.

This fall, she said the university will conduct a similar program to train against implicit bias, as well as other workshops still in the planning stages.

Sutton said he’s excited to be at the head of the university’s inclusive effort.

“I was interested in the job because I can put my skills to use in a position where I’m not confined to a job description,” he said.

He said his main goals were to get students more engaged and to give different perspectives to faculty and staff on inclusive training.

“I want to empower students to where they feel like they can be a part of change,” he said.

He said he’d like to make staff and faculty training less mundane than they’re often perceived to be. Sutton plans to make training accessible through the internet.

Sutton has worked in higher education for over 10 years. Throughout that time, he’s worked in Greek life, Multicultural Student Services, student engagement and leadership and student housing.

“I think that my experience working with students has prepared me for this position,” he said. “I feel like I’m diversity-savvy, if you will, and that helps me ensure that I’m working with students.”

Nolan said that Sutton’s experience working with student groups and his enthusiasm separated him from people who saw his position as daunting which made him the right person for the job.

“He knows how to bring people together,” she said. “He has experience creating infrastructure from the ground up.

The only part of the transition that Sutton said he was nervous about was moving to another part of the country.

“I’m a little nervous but I enjoyed my visit to Washington for my interview,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll like living here and getting to know the community.”