Kazi Joshua Q&A

Sam Jacobson

Question:  For the first question I thought we’d start off with the question that all east-coasters get asked when they first come to the far off reaches of Washington: Why did you choose to come to Whitman?

Answer: The quality of the institution. The location, the students, and above all the fact that Whitman was very intentional in rethinking how it wanted to proceed on matters of diversity, inclusion and equity. I was very impressed with the intelligence of students, the clear commitment of faculty and the tireless work of staff to make Whitman work for everybody. I felt very welcome and it really did not take a long time for me to arrive at the still very solid conclusion that Whitman is a place where I want to serve.

Question: Where did you grow up?

Answer: I was born in Malawi, South East Africa. I have spent half of my life in the states and half in Africa. In the states, I lived in Vermont, NY, Illinois and currently Pennsylvania. I consider Chicago my home.

Question: What’s five things that you want students to know about you?

Answer: a. I prefer to be called “Kazi.” b. I want you to come and talk to me when things are going well and when they are not going well. c. I am eager to get a sense from students what their vision of a fully inclusive, diverse and equitable Whitman is. d. I have a supportive family, My wife (Elise) my three daughters (Grace–High School Sophomore, Eneya–First year in High School, Will-Seventh grade and Miki, fourth grade). e. I love blues and gospel music and read philosophy for leisure.

Question:  Do you have any hobbies?

Answer: Yes (see above): music, reading, travel and community service

Question: If you could give a TED talk, what would it be on?

Answer: The intersection of Civic Engagement, US Diversity and Internationalization (meaning both study away and international students studying at Whitman) in creating fully global citizens and scholars.

Question:What are your goals as you transition into your new position here at Whitman?

Answer: a. Listen very carefully to every constituency regarding what is important to them regarding a diverse, inclusive and equitable Whitman. b. Get to know as many people as possible. c. Explore the possibility of carrying out a campus wide independently executed climate survey. d. In consultation with other leaders and governance bodies create a diversity council that would constitute a shared “hub” of our common work on diversity, equity and inclusion. My own sense is that this work that others have been doing before I got to whitman and that no one person alone can do it all. It is shared labor. e. In conjunction with the Diversity Council above, create a concrete vision of a diverse a Whitman and a concrete strategic diversity plan that would get us there.

Question:What are the top-three qualities that draw you to someone new?

Answer:  Kindness, Love, [and] ability to listen to others (speak less and listen more).

Question: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to someone?

Answer: A situation may seem to be insurmountable in the current moment, but in the course of time, it may very well be that it was only an opportunity for growth and maturity. The trick is to balance the two perspectives.

Question: How do you plan to deal with the issues of socio-economic diversity, as highlighted by the New York Times article, that this campus is currently facing?  (This question might be a little unfair seeing as you haven’t even started yet, but it will be a question that will most likely asked of you upon arrival and so I thought it OK to ask anyway.)

Answer: Of course, a lot has been said about this matter, and as you indicate below, I haven’t yet started working at Whitman. It would be an act of total hubris for me to make an assumption that I would have a solution without consultation with others. I can say though that the current circumstances are offering us (Whitties) an incredible opportunity to engage in campus wide conversations regarding what kind of diversity we want and what the budgetary implications are. I think it also invites us to place this current discussion in a broader national context in which questions of economic inequality have predominated and the question of the cost of higher education and the scale of debt students carry has been vigorously debated. Whitman is a small part of that, it will not solve all the questions of inequality, but we might arrive at a modest goal (general direction), that might help us continue to fulfill the social mission of Whitman and still remain economically viable.

Question: What were you like as a student?

Answer: I was a non traditional, first generation and immigrant student in the whitest state in the nation (Vermont) and my social location logically led me to student activism. I was part of an activist group at University of Vermont (I went to Trinity College across the street from UVM) that took over the administration building for two weeks and we were finally routed out by a dawn raid of the Burlington police. I created my own undergraduate degree program of study whose focus was on social change. I worked as an organize under the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness as an outreach person for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and I traveled all over the south of the U.S. doing that work. These experiences shaped my perspective as a professor and administrator.