DEIB Recap: A Conversation About Inclusion With Dr. DeRionne Pollard


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Thursday, June 6, 2024
Leading With Inclusion A Conversation with Dr. Pollard

On Wednesday, May 15, Rio Salado College hosted a special event called Leading with Inclusion: A Conversation with Nevada State University President, Dr. Pollard.The event was an hour long discussion and Q&A with guest speaker Dr. DeRionne Pollard, who holds the notable distinction of being the first Black female president of any Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) institution. Holding a Ph.D. in educational leadership, Pollard has been very active doing non-profit work and furthering the cause of equity and accessibility in education.

Rio Salado College President Kate Smith opened the discussion with a statement about the importance of civic obligation and diversity and how Rio strives to be "laser focused on equity." Reina Ferrufino, Rio Salado's Executive Officer of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, and Dr. Latrice Gettings, Rio Salado professor and DEI advocate, were also on-hand to ask Pollard questions. They kicked off the program by sharing a statistic that nearly half of Nevada State's students are first-generation college students.

When asked a few icebreaker questions, Pollard talked about her love of reading and cooking shows (though she emphasized that she doesn't actually like cooking- she just likes cooking shows). She talked excitedly about her love of gospel music and her favorite books: Toni Morrison's “The Bluest Eye,” “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, and “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. 

"I know I am my ancestors’ biggest and wildest dream to be sitting in this seat," Pollard said, reflecting on the struggle she endured to carve out her place as a leader in education. She emphasized the importance of community and talked about how her friends and church supported her on her professional journey, giving her the support she needed to push through institutional barriers.

Pollard discussed how draining it can be for people to enter professional spaces that were “not built for them” and how being the first of your group can put a tremendous amount of pressure to over-perform to impress others. She talked about how taxing that can be- the desire to appear faster, more competent, more present than other people to short-circuit other people’s biases and preconceptions.

On the subject of inclusion, Pollard emphasized that a big part of the process is ensuring that the next generation has a seat at the table. 

“I may be the first of any number of different things but my job is to make sure I’m not the last,” she said. “It’s to expand the table and make sure other people have a chance to sit there.”

See For Yourself

Missed the event or want to re-experience this dialogue? Check out our recording of the event:

Watch Leading with Inclusion


Article by Austin Brietta