Northern California in the late 20th century wasn’t a nesting ground for diversity. In fact, most people in the all-white neighborhood Bruce Shepard grew up in reacted downright negatively toward it.
He remembers when the first Italian family moved in, and “For Sale” signs cropped up on the lawns of some nearby homes. Then the first Japanese family. More signs.
Each time new neighbors moved in, Shepard’s father marched him and his brother across the street or down the block to shake hands and extend a warm welcome.
The Western Washington University president said that he was raised to promote diversity in his community. It’s a mission he has carried with him throughout his jobs in higher education and a goal he believes Western’s students and faculty support. Since he started at Western in 2008, he has repeatedly asked what the Bellingham, Wash. liberal arts university can do to make sure that, in future years, Western is not as white as it is today.
The question itself, however, isn’t what made national morning news last week or finally got the majority of Western students — and more than a few others not affiliated with the university — talking about Western’s diversity goals.