As Steven D. Parker walked through a grocery store with his mother, she looked him in the eye and told him to “stay by her.” Immediately, Steven felt the tension in the situation. Though he wanted to join the other children running around the store, he remembered his mother’s words. When the two were back at their car, Steven’s mother said to him, “Listen here, little black boy, for you to be safe you need to stay by me.” He was three years old.
“Let’s be clear, I’m a black man in the United States,” said Steven. “Thus, I was born into DEI work.”
Steven D. Parker’s Career
Though Steven was inherently enrolled in the work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), his career in the pursuit of justice started when he went to college for a degree in social work. Since then, Steven has worked in higher education as a diversity officer, Title IX coordinator, and even a residence life director. Western is honored to have Steven D. Parker as the Vice President for Inclusivity. Steven operates under the belief that every person, regardless of identity, deserves the right to livelihood.
“Not all of our siblings in the United States or even around the world are seen as inherently worthy of living; we’re just not,” said Steven. “I say, I am inherently worthy, and so are all of our other siblings.”
Steven’s Goals as Western’s Vice President for Inclusivity
As a member of the higher education community, Steven is dedicated to furthering the ideals of social justice in the academic sphere. On a micro level, social justice in higher education happens when leaders instate equitable practices to discourage biases against those who are not in the majority racially, sexually, religiously, etc. Steven said that after he takes a listening period to figure out what Western needs, his second initiative will be an interrogative look at Western’s policies and gatekeeping systems, such as admissions, the student code of conduct, and human resources.
“In post-secondary education, policy is law,” said Steven. “We need to look at these [policies] and interrogate them to ensure we are not promoting white, masculine, and patriarchal structures.”
Connecting with Western Colorado University
Aside from his passion for DEI work, Steven is an avid reader, runner, and loves his fur children. He enjoys the outdoors and is excited to try his hand at snowboarding and skiing when he relocates to the Gunnison Valley. After visiting Western, Steven felt called to the school. He expressed that he often finds himself in situations where people care less about him and more about what he can do for them based on his experiences. At Western, though, he just felt loved.
“It was serendipitous. It was a beautiful moment of connectivity,” said Steven. “Some of the most magical experiences that I have ever had in post-secondary education happened in the walls of Western. I felt like I was sitting with siblings who truly cared for me and the work.”
As Western Colorado University continues to learn and grow in the pursuit of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we are grateful to have Steven D. Parker join in our fight. The work is never done, but we are dedicated to a world based on our inherent human worth of existing.
“There is a concrete vision that has manifested at the institutional level centering diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism, and social and racial justice. I think Western is being very intentional in creating this position and choosing someone to champion this work. I’m honored to be that champion.” – Steven D. Parker.
Learn more about Western’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity.
Author Credit: Kinlee Whitney
Photo Credit: Olivia Reinhardt