Thomas College Announces Creation of Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Social Justice and Names Co-Chairs MacKenzie Riley Young | June 18, 2020

WATERVILLE, ME, June 2020 — Thomas College President Laurie Lachance announced today the creation of a Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Social Justice. This is in response to the global outcry over the senseless killings of black community members and the call to meaningfully address systemic racism in our society.

Two weeks ago, Lachance wrote to the Thomas College community condemning the death of George Floyd and committing to address the systemic racism in our society. She promised to take action because being silent is not an option.

As a critically important first step, President Lachance is honored to announce the appointment of the co-chairs of this inaugural task force, both of whom are highly-respected Thomas College professors and activists: Dr. Richard Biffle and Professor Judith Hansen-Childers.

“Both Rich and Judy have been teaching, studying, and leading in this area for many years, and I have faith in their knowledge of, passion for, and commitment to making real change in our approach to fully addressing issues of diversity and social justice at Thomas College,” said President Lachance.

Dr. Richard Biffle is currently a Professor of Education and Anthropology at Thomas College.  He teaches courses in education, sociology, anthropology and archaeology.

Dr. Biffle earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of California, Riverside; an M.A. in Education Administration and Leadership from Eastern Michigan University; and his Ph.D. in Educational Anthropology from the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Biffle has lived and travelled around the world, and held numerous consultant positions as a result of his work in the areas of social justice, civil and human rights, equity and diversity program design, community organization and planning, teacher education/preparation, and multicultural education. He has also held a number of leadership positions with state and national professional organizations.

His extensive background and experience in diversity, civil rights and social justice have included being a national staff member with the NAACP, Director – C.S. Mott Foundation Community Education Programs, and guest speaker at many national education and community conferences.

“The changing ethnic face of today’s society has brought growing cultural diversity to our work place, schools and communities. To date, the ability to harness the strengths of diversity, develop vital organizational and communication skills, and solve these institutional challenges remains underdeveloped,” said Dr. Biffle. “We have a responsibility in college and university communities to provide holistic learning experiences that develop a spirit of active engagement. This requires a deeper knowledge and understanding of the social, political, economic, and psychological issues associated with racial injustice and racial inequality.”


Professor Judith Hansen-Childers is currently Associate Professor of Humanities at Thomas College. She teaches courses in philosophy, political science, history, and humanities. She also teaches a course on social diversity and oppression for the Faculté de Travail Social et de Justice Sociale/College of Social Work and Social Justice (FTSJS) in Haiti.

Hansen-Childers earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Philosophy at Trinity College in Washington, D.C; an MBA from Thomas College; an M.S. in Computer Technology Education from Thomas College; and a Graduate Certificate in Middle East Studies from American Public University.

Hansen-Childers has a longstanding interest in social justice, human rights, diversity, equity, as well as peace and conflict resolution. She has travelled to Northern Ireland, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Israel to participate in faculty seminars focused on these issues. Her study and research led to the creation of courses on terrorism, genocide, global justice, and the Middle East.

 
“I grew up amidst the segregation of the ‘50s and ‘60s. My family was from the South. In fact, all my ancestors were from the South – and they were racists. Many of them were the oppressors, but another branch of the family, as it turned out, were the oppressed – a fact that was carefully hidden and buried in myth. I have always had a strong sense of social justice and spent a great deal of my childhood and college years challenging my parents’ worldview. I am still challenging people’s worldview. Just ask my students,” said Hansen-Childers. “I am honored to be named, along with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Richard Biffle, co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice and look forward to working with an outstanding and knowledgeable team.”

The purpose of this task force is to organize an effort that has long-term systemic involvement in this conversation surrounding equity, diversity and social justice with these five goals in mind:

  • To empower everyone in our community with knowledge and understanding, and to nurture a commitment to diversity and social justice across disciplines for students, staff and faculty by creating a culture that allows for that,
  • To create and support educational programs on diversity and social justice through dialogues, reading circles, symposiums, and guest lecturers,
  • To build a more diverse community,
  • To develop curriculum and co-curricular activities related to diversity and social justice, and
  • To provide support and resources for diversity and social justice efforts across campus.

The next step in this initiative is to identify Task Force members from a broad representation of stakeholders. Members will be empowered to identify plans of action for creating a culture and community at Thomas College that is inclusive, compassionate, and passionate about equity, diversity, and social justice. 

About Thomas College: Thomas College has been preparing students for success in their personal and professional lives for over 125 years. Thomas College nurtures the unique potential within each student. Our Guaranteed Job Program, 3-year accelerated offerings in all undergraduate degrees (master’s in the fourth year), individualized advising, career counseling, and our Innovation Centers in Business and Education meet a student’s determination to succeed with the direction, confidence, and tools to realize the highest version of themselves. From the classroom to community activities, or on the athletics field with our 18 varsity sports, Thomas College provides a personalized experience that prepares you for the workplace of tomorrow. Data reported by the New York Times ranks Thomas in the top 13 percent of all higher education institutions in the U.S. for upward mobility of its graduates, and U.S. News & World Report ranks us #8 among colleges in the Northeast. For more information, visit wwwold.thomas.edu or contact MacKenzie Riley Young at [email protected] or 207-859-1313. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.