Deborah Allen, inaugural director of the Center for Inclusive Communities (CIC), is leaving Furman at the end of the Fall semester. Allen shared that the CIC’s purpose is to “create space for historically underrepresented communities to celebrate themselves, to feel affirmed and to foster an environment of inclusion for our underrepresented students.” To do this, the CIC provides students opportunities to “critically engage with topics of diversity, equity and inclusion.” While Allen will be moving on from Furman, she is proud of the impact that the CIC has made on Furman in her time here.
As director of the CIC, Allen has been responsible for strategic oversight and helping with the development of each of the center’s programs. Over the last four years, Allen has helped build a curriculum for Dins Dialogue, advised the Student Diversity Council, and helped support international students with their visa and immigration needs. In addition, Deborah also supervises the other three staff members of the CIC and serves as the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, a university-wide committee that reports directly to President Elizabeth Davis.
Allen is especially proud of the creation of the Dins Dialogue program during her time at Furman. She cites the dialogue program as responsible for a culture shift at Furman. Allen shared that when she started at Furman six years ago, “the campus community was not, in general, comfortable having conversations around race, or gender identity or religion outside of Christianity.” Allen believes that the dialogue program has brought about a culture shift by helping the community engage in conversations about identity, privilege, and diversity issues in a productive and meaningful way. “The dialogue program has allowed students to have an outlet for issues of race and identity and thinking about how systems of power and privilege impact communities of people in different ways,” Allen elaborated. Dins Dialogue has provided opportunities to engage with these topics, facilitating essential conversations with an aim towards creating an environment where everyone feels seen.
One major reason Allen believes that campus awareness of diversity and inclusion initiatives have advanced in her time at Furman is that the community is now having conversations about anti-racism and trans issues. However, she believes that we still have some ways to go, and states:
“There are some systemic changes that need to happen at the institution ensuring that we’re thinking through an equity lens and that all constituents have the same level of opportunity at the institution, that we’re meeting the needs of all of our students, from our international students to our students of color and students of lower socio-economic status.”
Allen is leaving Furman to move back with her family to Charlotte, where they lived before coming to Greenville, as her husband has received a promotion. She describes leaving Greenville as “bittersweet” because she will miss the people at Furman. Leaving her position as CIC director does not mean an end to her equity and justice work. Allen shared that these pursuits are essential to who she is and plans to continue this work in Charlotte. Although the next CIC director has not been identified, Allen is confident that Furman will “find someone who is dedicated to students and passionate about DEI work and wants to continue to move Furman in the right direction.” Allen will certainly be missed by the Furman community, and she leaves behind large shoes to fill for the next Director of the Center for Inclusive Communities.