Bruce King, pictured, is excited to join City Colleges of Chicago as its Inaugural Associate Vice Chancellor for Racial Equity. A native of Chicago’s south side and product of Chicago Public Schools, Bruce brings a wealth of experience and ability in the field of equity and inclusion across both higher and secondary education. As AVC (Associate Vice Chancellor) for Equity, Bruce is looking forward to supporting the work already underway by each of the colleges and their hardworking teams who have designed seven unique plans that share a common goal of closing the equity gap and improving student outcomes for Black and Brown students across the system. Bruce believes to address today’s academic disparities, you must acknowledge the historical role of systemic racism, institutionalized segregation and economic inequality have, and continue, to play in preventing better outcomes. Bruce believes one of the reasons he was drawn to the position was because of the transparency and truth telling found in each of the plans created by the colleges. These plans directly name issues standing in the way of our students achieving greater success. From food and housing insecurity to a lack of access to classroom materials like textbooks and technology, our colleges are putting it on the table so as our achievement gap narrows, so will the disconnect we experience between our students, their families and the communities where they live, and we serve.
Why is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) important in higher education?
Historically, higher education was not built for everyone. If we go far back, it was only the elite who had access to advance learning. An entire higher education institution was built on a principle that education was only for some and not for all. Generations of Black and Brown had to fight hard, and sometimes give their life, for greater access to education. This does not mean that for everyone to be successful, they must attend college, but what is does mean is places like City Colleges of Chicago exist to make higher education accessible to all who so wish an advanced education. Now, as we think about equity, we know it requires a restructuring in the way we create access and systems to support successful student outcomes.
Why are you passionate about the work you do in DEI?
There are people who take jobs and build careers and then there are those who are called to follow a certain path in service. I would put myself in that latter category. My passion comes from my lived experience. Growing up in Morgan Park, I saw the power of education. My role models were my teachers, adults in church, those teaching me in afterschool and enrichment programs. Education was always paramount in my life. As I continued my education at Iowa State University, I realized that the wonderful experiences I had in Chicago were not shared by everyone. I remember my first job at a small college, we had 11 Black students on campus, and I saw that although we were in this great institution, all the Black students existed on the peripheral of campus life and not in the center. It was at that moment that I realized in my next job, I wanted to really affect the lives of people of color by bringing them into the center of their educational experience. After getting into the field of multicultural affairs more than thirty years ago, I realized there was so much potential to impact the lives of those I served. Joining City Colleges of Chicago is full circle for me. It was always my goal to come back and help the kid that I was growing up on the south side. I feel fortunate that I can bring my passion and commitment back home, to Chicago.
What do you hope to do in your first months at City Colleges of Chicago?
Beginning a new position during an international pandemic is never easy. I hope to spend the first few months of my time building relationships with people both at the District Office and across the seven colleges. I have no illusions that becoming the “inaugural” Associate Vice Chancellor for Racial Equity means that the work of racial equity is in its infancy. To be forthright, I am in serious catch-up mode understanding what has already been done and currently being done by the colleges and our colleagues at the district level. I want to join them in the work and contribute my years of experience to the teams already immersed in the work.
What are your long-range goals?
My long-range goals are reflected in the outstanding documents produced by our colleges and supported by our Chancellor. There are achievement gaps that need to be closed, policies and practices that need to be evaluated, revised, and retried as well as ones to be created. I will soon begin to re-engage the work started by the Chancellor to create an Anti-Racism Committee that names and dismantles structural and systemic barriers, born out of a racist blueprint. The goal of CCC is to recognize the full humanity of all its students, faculty, and staff. We also want to hear from our communities, both internal and external to City Colleges to better understand how we can best serve their individualistic needs.
One of your goals is to partner with research institutions, why?
We cannot do this work in a vacuum nor can we hope to make lasting change without understanding the full implications of the information we both harvest and need to make change. We are partnering with several external organizations, including research institutions, who have the resources, skills, and ability to guide and support us in our work. We also hope to be able to share what we have learned and achieved with other colleges, universities, city departments, and non-profit organizations who are also looking to build stronger equity outcomes in their organization.
How can others become stakeholders and equity champions?
Many people who ask that question are already engaged and may not know it. So that is the good news. To become a stakeholder means to become more intentional about issues of access, fairness, and equality for all people but most importantly, for those people who have been historically marginalized, discriminated against and mistreated. Individuals already engaged in their churches, fraternal organizations, civic organizations, and local block clubs are making a difference. Anyone who is mentoring young people or contributing to food banks are already engaged in the work of equity —creating more fair outcomes for their community. You do not need a degree, workshop, or a class, you just need to act. My advice is to empower yourself, find like-minded people and simply make a difference and change an outcome for someone.