Kaelia Neal, the hidden gem of creating diverse events

Office+of+Inclusion%2C+Access+and+Diversity++

Thomas Sagers

Office of Inclusion, Access and Diversity

Annemarie Mullet, Staff Writer

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Walking into the Linfield University’s library looks a little different this month. Off to the right, stands the first of dozens of framed posters, honoring specific individuals and their achievements for the celebration of Black History Month.

In addition to the library, many offices and departments at Linfield have been busy at work helping celebrate Black History month within the campus community. 

Kaelia Neal, Linfield alum from the class of 2018, works as the Program Coordinator for the Office of Inclusion, Access and Diversity at Linfield. This office, formerly known as the Office of Multicultural Programs, is new and developing. 

Neal is the go-to person when it comes to discovering what events are involved with the Office of Inclusion, Access and Diversity. She also coordinates events between departments and clubs that involve the Inclusion and Diversity office. 

This month, the recent graduate has been hard at work coordinating online events related to Black History Month. Neal shared a few ways individuals within the Linfield community can do their part to learn and celebrate Black History month. “Just doing what you can to be involved,” said Neal. “That means a lot.” 

Sharing information on social media is a great way to be involved, Neal noted. “Maybe that’s one way you wanna get involved, and I think that’s great personally,” she said.

Since social media holds such a large interest for the college-aged population in the US, there is a lot of information being shared on its platforms relating to Black History Month. 

Neal shared what Linfield students specifically can do on social media. “You see a lot of stuff that you could be doing that’s shared on social media and I think that’s all great, but what students can do here specifically at Linfield is participating in our events or partnering with our office or the Black Student Union on an event,” she said.

Many students may not realize that they can work with the Office of Inclusion, Access and Diversity to create events. “The wine department, they always partner with us on various things, not just Black History Month, which is amazing,” she said. “It’s just like one of those departments that you probably wouldn’t really think off the top of your head which is cool.”

Neal has already coordinated many educational events this February to celebrate Black History Month. One such event was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.. “We’ve had two events now specifically targeting our black alumni. We had one MLK Day event where we invited alumni from the 1960s and 1970s to talk about their experience at Linfield as students during the era, so that’s really cool,” Neal said. 

The second event, similar to the first, was an invitation for black alumni from any graduating year to share their experiences. “I was super excited to see alumni from the 1960s and then see some one of my friends who graduated the class I did also come to the event,” said Neal.

Neal shared the overall reactions from the alumni at the event about their experiences at Linfield. “From those events the conversation was very similar across the board, similar to conversations I have with students even now, that  [the alumni from the event] loved their Linfield experience, they really did,” she said. 

The 2018 graduate added her personal experience as a black person at Linfield in the conversation. “Personally, I loved my Linfield experience the day I got here I felt welcome,” she said. “I was embraced by hugs and smiling faces. It was a very warm environment and I never had anything happen that made me feel outright excluded.”

However, Neal feels there’s still more to be done, and many of the alumni feel this way as well. “There’s still something missing, and I think that’s what a lot of black alumni agree on. We were 1% black in the 1960s and 70s and now we’re 2% black in 2021,” Neal said.

The lack of raise in the percentage of black students at Linfield over the last 40-50 years may raise eyebrows. Neal acknowledged the number is low. “We’re really trying to figure out different ways to get more black students, there’s so many factors that go into it, it’s not just one thing,” Neal said. “There’s not a lot of black people in Oregon, so where are we getting people from? That’s a really big thing.”

Neal also shared the importance of having black people in the faculty and staff at Linfield. “There were things that could have made [the Linfield experience] better and representation was the biggest thing. Having people that look like you on campus, having students that look like you, having faculty and staff that look like you,” she said.

Regardless, Neal praises the progress the Linfield community has made so far. “Now students have a black President and a black Dean of Business—which is crazy,” she said. “I don’t know if other people understand how insane that is but if it gives you some perspective.” 

There are more events to come for Black History Month within Neal’s department and within the Linfield community for the remaining days left in February.

For students who feel confused or were unaware there were events for the month—Neal reassures that it’s fine. “Especially with the pandemic, it’s not making things easier with letting people know because it gets lost. It gets lost in the Linfield Ahead, it gets lost in social media because there’s so much going on especially virtually,” she said.

“I’m really excited for when we get out of this pandemic to see more of an in-person presence and how the campus has improved in terms of being inclusive and diverse,” Neal said excitedly. “I feel like it’s there, our students are motivated and they want to go to events but it’s just difficult virtually right now.”

To find the rest of the events for Black History Month or to catch up on events you missed go to the Office of Inclusion, Access and Diversity page to learn more.