Edgewood College’s Tony Garcia talks about New Edgewood Initiatives: Institutional Rebounding

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Tony Garcia has been engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion issues at Edgewood College for the past 10 years.

Part 2 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Almost two years ago, Edgewood College pretty much bottomed out in terms of its reputation as it related to race relations on its campus. Former Dean of Students Tony Chambers had gone public about the difficult conditions that people of color faced on the campus. Chambers statements had been echoed privately and publically by Edgewood students of color.

During the pandemic, things have been quietly changing at Edgewood, spurred on by the hiring of Andrew Manion as Edgewood’s president last summer. After getting the lay of the land, Manion set in motion initiatives to change the campus climate and forge Edgewood College into an antiracist university including steps like naming Tony Garcia the interim associate vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

One of the measures that Manion instituted was a taskforce on dismantling racism at Edgewood College.

“The taskforce has been ongoing,” Garcia said. “The work continues. And as we approach a new division of mission, values and inclusion from a campus culture standpoint, we feel that antiracist work, equity work, diversity work, and creating inclusive environments, we do that at Edgewood because of course it is the right thing to do.

But we also do it because it is our mission. We are sponsored by the Dominican Sisters if Sinsinawa. We are a Catholic college rooted in the Dominican tradition. The Dominicans have a long-standing tradition to leading antiracist work. And that has been their lifelong commitment as a congregation. They have their own taskforce to look at systems of oppression. They have corporate stances on everything from immigration reform to human trafficking to racism. And so that is our sponsoring institution. And as we thought about what it means to be a Dominican Catholic college, what it means to be a value-based organization with five values of truth, justice, compassion, partnership and community and what it means to be an antiracist organization. We felt that the message we needed to send to our campus community was we were doing antiracist work, we’re doing equity and diversity work, because of who we are, because of our identity.”

Manion is also establishing the position of vice-president for mission, values and inclusion. While the college had hoped to have the position filled by last fall, they are taking their time to ensure they get it right.

“Knowing that we were going to extend out the timeline to summer 2021 to have the person hired, Andy wanted to make an interim appointment to help folks begin coordinating and thinking about what our roadmap could look like,” Garcia said. “That’s how my interim appointment got created. We also have an interim vice-president for mission, values and inclusion, Dr. John Leonard. He’s a long-time faculty member at Edgewood College in our Religious Studies department. He also lives and breathes antiracist work. That’s who John is in his beliefs. And so as you can see just with his background with Religious Studies and my background as a diversity officer at Edgewood, we’ve been complementing each other in our positions.”

Edgewood has also made some key hires in leadership and administrative positions.

“Within the last seven months, we have a new director of HR, a new vice-president of academic affairs, an assistant director of graduate admissions, a new sports director/head coach and professional advisors who all represent folks of color,” Garcia said. “And so we begin thinking about finding the best and the brightest and thinking about diverse organizations as well. We’ve got some great new people and new, diverse talent at the table. That’s one way that we begin to think about organizationally how we can make a difference here.”

Developing an esprit de corps with an antiracist thrust meant that everyone get on the same page. Beginning with the winter break, the faculty and staff went through a training together.

“Over the winter break, all employees received a copy of How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram Kendi,” Garcia said. “They were asked to read it over the winter break. And then as we came back together as a community before the students came to campus, we had a week-long seminar, state of the college planning, strategic mapping and other activities. We devoted an entire day to this task and built out programming and built out educational opportunities and programming for the entire semester. We began leaning into what it means to identify as an antiracist college and organization. And this text has been fundamental and foundational for our campus to one, learn what it means to be antiracist, to begin asking questions around the policies from an equity standpoint that might be inequitable.”

In terms of campus climate, the pandemic has brought a lot of the physical things that happen on campus to a standstill. And so it has allowed the college to look at what can be done differently to create a “new normal” on campus.

“The pandemic allows us to do something different and allows us to be totally genuine and firm,” Garcia said. “We’ve got 23 percent of our freshman class in 2020 were BIPOC students. About 22 percent of all students at Edgewood College identify as BIPOC. That’s undergraduate, graduate and college completion. To your point, it gives us the opportunity to hit the pause button. And okay, this is our campus. This is who we are serving, a core of the students identifying as BIPOC. What are we going to do differently from a service standpoint? I touched on earlier about being student centered. What does it mean to be student centered? We want to build that percentage up to represent Madison and Dane County proportionately as well and so we have more work to do. We’ve got more work to do on the employee side as well. Sixteen percent of our employees identify as BIPOC. So this is that opportunity during the COVID era is to hit the pause button, to reset. We’ve got new leaders on campus. They have a tremendous amount of support and commitment to being antiracist and to create an inclusive environment. This is that time for us to really develop the plan and be thoughtful in how we do it.”

And Edgewood is involving everyone in the planning process.

“We’ve been really taking a data-informed approach as well,” Garcia said. “We’ve been looking at campus climate survey data, employee exit surveys from our faculty and staff who have left the college. We’ve surveyed BIPOC students and looking for themes and for ways that we can improve the campus community. We are reengaging with community-based organizations in a more strategic and thoughtful way. What does it mean to be partners with organizations in Madison? We want to be accessible and open to the community. We’re really thinking about from an organizational standpoint, a culture standpoint, a policy standpoint, and a service standpoint how we can be student centered. What does that mean for us as a community? How can we be a place where folks want to work and have great experiences? And how can we grow as a college?”

Even Edgewood’s Community Scholar’s program has come under scrutiny. While before it was more of a generic community service scholarship program, Garcia is retooling it so that it will be focused more on antiracist work and leadership development.

“We’ve redefined our mission statement for Community Scholars to prepare a community of leaders from Dane County compelled to promote the common good and advocate for justice,” Garcia emphasized. “Our vision is to build an expansive network of leaders who address economic, political and social issues that affect our lives in society. And our purpose is to provide individualized support, tuition assistance and leadership opportunities to historically underrepresented BIPOC students. We’re beginning to really flush out what it means to be a member of the Community Scholars program. I think this is just one example at the micro-level of what Edgewood is going through right now. You can apply these same principles and say, ‘What does it mean to be a community member at Edgewood College?’ “What does it mean to work at Edgewood College?’ And so, it’s exciting.”

A lot of potential change is happening at Edgewood, enough to keep Tony Garcia working on diversity, equity and inclusion issues at the college.

“Our values-based college is something special, I think,” Garcia said. “That’s why I’ve been here for 10 years. And I am excited about the work moving forward.”

Edgewood College is at a crossroads. How it remains on the path of institutional rebounding is responsibility of Edgewood’s leadership team. The phoenix can arise.

Next Issue: Change at Edgewood

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SPRINGFIELD—HSHS is pleased to announce that Damond W. Boatwright, MHA, MHS, FACHE, has accepted our offer to serve as president and CEO of Hospital Sisters Health System. He will start in this role in June 2021, succeeding the current president and CEO of HSHS, Mary Starmann-Harrison, who retires in July after serving in this role for the past decade.

“Damond is a bright, talented and innovative leader with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry,” Sister Jomary Trstensky, OSF, chair of Hospital Sisters Ministries (the public juridic sponsor of HSHS) said. “His passion for

Hospital Sisters Health System Announces New President and CEO

 

working in Catholic healthcare was profoundly evident throughout the interview process. We are excited to welcome him to HSHS.”

Boatwright will be relocating to the Springfield area from Madison, Wisconsin. He currently serves as regional president for SSM Health Wisconsin, a role he has served in since 2014. SSM Health Wisconsin includes seven hospitals and four affiliates, 85+ physician clinics, a pharmacy benefit company, 10 nursing homes and an insurance company. Some of Boatwright’s accomplishments at SSM Health Wisconsin include achieving growth in several key service lines; successfully integrating one of the largest independent multispecialty groups in Wisconsin; maintaining top decile patient satisfaction and quality scores; and developing and chairing SSM Health Wisconsin’s first advisory council on inclusion, diversity and equity.

Prior to SSM Health Wisconsin, Boatwright served in various leadership roles at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) from 2001 to 2013. His career at HCA took him to hospitals in Virginia, Florida, Missouri and Kansas, serving in executive leadership roles with increasing responsibilities.

“Damond’s leadership record at HCA and SSM is exemplary,” said Bill Murray, chairman of the HSHS Board of Directors. “I am confident he will provide the leadership needed to help HSHS continue working through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Damond is committed to moving HSHS forward as an integrated healthcare ministry, ensuring that high-quality healthcare is accessible to all our communities.”

 

Boatwright is originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Though he once aspired to become a physician, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at The Citadel in Charleston in 1994. It was a chance meeting with a Citadel alum who worked in healthcare administration that led Boatwright to pursue a career in healthcare.

Boatwright worked full-time at HCA while completing his Master of Health Administration and Health Sciences (MHA, MHS) at Medical University of South Carolina. After finishing graduate school, Boatwright worked as an administrative fellow for Duke University Health System in Raleigh, North Carolina.