by Maddy Dillon, Staff Writer
Gerald Spates has resigned from his position as Interim Director of Multicultural Affairs. He has accepted the position of Director of the Student Memorial Center, overseeing race operations at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.
Spates came to Warren Wilson in 2009 to replace Rodney Lytle, current interim director of alumni relations. According to President Sandy Pfeiffer, Spates was hired to lead the community in “a long-term effort to create a more culturally, racially, ethnically, and economically diverse community—one that is a better reflection of the world in which our graduates will live and work.”
“It’s in the works,” said Spates of Pfeiffer’s goal. “Warren Wilson is definitely committed to gaining and establishing the broad diversity that it might have had.”
When asked what challenges the community faces in terms of achieving these goals, he said, “We live in a bubble that isolates students from the current issues out there.”
Spates encourages students to “not be afraid to step out and embrace it, know what’s really going on and be prepared to be to take on everything that’s going to come at them once they enter the work force.” He added that students ought to “be prepared for change and growth…. Don’t be afraid to be vocal about what changes you’d like to see. Students need to be the guiding force.”
Many community members are sad to see Spates go after his vast contributions toward increasing and maintaining diversity on campus.
“I’m really going to miss his determination to make a change,” said junior Nebiyou Mandefro, student member of the Multicultural Student Organization. “We will strongly value his contribution but we won’t be discouraged because of his absence. We will instead be continuing the long road that Mr. Gerald has started and get the most out of the examples he set.”
Spates started the Multicultural Student Organization (MSO) shortly after arriving at Warren Wilson. The group has played an important role in fostering an understanding of diversity on campus and the various cultures represented within the college community. The MSO meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Multicultural Office in the basement of Schafer A and has organized campus events such as the Haiti fundraiser and the Diwali celebration.
“Mr. Gerald has started paving the way towards achieving diversity here at [Warren Wilson], said Mandefro. “He has worked hard to restructure the system. He has helped us in a lot of ways. He didn’t want budgeting to be a hindering factor towards our achievement in addressing the diversity on campus.”
Spates has taken several groups of students to diversity-focused leadership conferences at other universities. Last week, a group of students attended a conference at University of South Carolina.
“The conferences he’s taken us to are really beneficial; they expose us to the world,” said junior Stacy Edmond, member of the Multicultural Crew. “If we can reach out to people with diverse backgrounds and tell them about Wilson, then we can get people to come.”
“We meet a lot of people from various colleges and learn about the key roles of diversity leadership…[the most recent conference] was mind-blowing, as usual,” said Mandefro.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different institutions,” he said, “and working with this faculty and staff has made it easier and a refreshing change from other institutions I’ve worked at. Students are empowered to take a stance.”
The best aspect of working in the Warren Wilson community, said Spates, is its “openness.”
“I’m so thankful I’ve had this opportunity to spend a little more than a year and half of my life here. I’ve fallen in love with this community and certainly learned a lot, but I had to find a [permanent] job,” Spates said.
Today, Feb. 9, is Spates’s last day on campus.
“I’m really going to miss [Warren Wilson],” said Spates.