Kent State announces new presidential fellow within DEI division

Grace Davies, Reporter

Joseph Ortiz has been announced as the Kent State Presidential Fellow, working within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) division to develop the university’s SEAchange chapter.

SEAchange is a nationwide program from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS.) The program aims to increase intersectionality within the STEM programs and groups on college campuses. They strive for long-term changes, based on research and evaluation, to shape institutional change and cultures so more students can attend these programs.

Joseph Ortiz, presidential fellow of DEI

Ortiz is on a team of 25 people from across all Kent State campuses, with him and three others heading the main campus chapter.

Amoaba Gooden, president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is helping to lead the SEAchange project.

Amoaba Gooden, president of DEI

“So we’re in the phase of assessing where we are at Kent State in terms of STEM and equity,”  she said. “So to be able to respond, we need to think through the data, look at the data and then analyze the data so that we can come up with recommendations.”

As well as helping with the SEAchange program, Ortiz has been an earth sciences professor at Kent State since 2001.

Hailing from a Puerto Rican family on Long Island, he was one of the only Latinos in his high school honors program. Only a hundred Latino people graduated from Brown University upon his admission there in 1984.

While Attending Brown, Ortiz faced occasional encounters with racism.

“Brown [is] often described as a very liberal school,” he said, “but there were individuals that told me to my face when I was there that I didn’t belong at Brown. That I was taking a paying spot […] fortunately not everyone was like that […] one of the things that I did at Brown was to work as [hard as] I could to get the most out of that opportunity.”

Ortiz got a doctorate in oceanography from Oregon State University, making him one of the few Hispanic people in the United States with a doctorate at the time.

Ortiz has worked within many university departments to increase diversity within the student body and educational faculties. He previously served as a provost fellow for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI) at the Student Multicultural Center as well as fundraising for scholarships to expand the body of STEM students.

Gooden thought these experiences would make Ortiz a perfect candidate for the presidential fellow position.

“Definitely it [was] his experience in sciences and STEM […]”  Gooden said. “I believe in 2017 he along with Dr. [Eboni] Pringle [ Dean of University College] actually led the effort to examine and look at the reasons why students were withdrawing or failing or dropping certain courses in the STEM field.”

Kent State’s SEAchange sector is in the infant stage, sifting through Kent State diversity data to determine the next steps. Ortiz is excited about the position as well as what the SEAchange program can bring.

“We all have amazing contributions that we can make,” Ortiz says. “We should be celebrating our differences and learning from them rather than trying to squash them.”

Grace Davies is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].