‘Stalwart leader’ of diversity elected OSU’s first Black woman faculty president

Portrait+of+Erika+McCalpine%2C+the+Executive+Director+of+Strategic+Diversity+Initiatives+and+Director+of+the+Diversity%2C+Equity+and+Inclusion+Laboratory%2C+in+her+office+at+the+OSU-Cascades+campus+in+Bend%2C+Ore.+McCalpine+is+the+first+person+from+OSU-Cascades+elected+to+lead+the+faculty+senate+and+started+her+presidency+in+2022.+

Haydon Holgerson, Photographer

Portrait of Erika McCalpine, the Executive Director of Strategic Diversity Initiatives and Director of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, in her office at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, Ore. McCalpine is the first person from OSU-Cascades elected to lead the faculty senate and started her presidency in 2022.

Zeva Rosenbaum, News Contributor

Professor Erika McCalpine has assumed her role as the first Black woman president of the Oregon State University Faculty Senate, representing the first OSU-Cascades faculty member to hold this position. 

McCalpine was installed as Faculty Senate president during their Jan. 13, 2022 meeting. She was elected as president during the fall 2020 elections and the results were announced during the Dec. 10, 2020 Faculty Senate meeting.

McCalpine said she moved to Oregon and chose to settle at OSU-Cascades after spending her whole life in Alabama because she wanted her children to have a different experience. 

Since arriving on the OSU-Cascades campus, McCalpine was named Source Weekly’s 2019 Woman of the Year, has received the OSU Frances Dancy Hooks Award and the OSU-Cascades Diversity Award, sat on the boards of directors of Volunteers in Medicine and the City Club of Central Oregon, co-founded Love Your Neighbor, and launched the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Laboratory. 

McCalpine is also executive director of strategic diversity initiatives at OSU-Cascades and teaches classes in business administration.

McCalpine said being an example for faculty, students and staff of color at OSU-Cascades and representing Black women means everything to her.

According to McCalpine, holding the position from Bend, Ore. has its own inconveniences, but she believes it’s important for people to see her in person.

“I travel back and forth a lot!” McCalpine said. “But it means a lot to me to be present in Corvallis so that people can see me and know that I am here and working on their behalf.”

Selina Heppell, OSU’s previous Faculty Senate president, is optimistic about McCalpine’s tenure in the position. 

“It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to work closely with President McCalpine this year,” Heppell said. “As our first president from OSU-Cascades and someone who works tirelessly for diversity, equity and inclusion on our campuses and in our communities, she brings important new perspectives and experience to the role.”

According to Heppell, McCalpine’s presidency represents faculty in Bend and across the university who are increasingly interested in the Faculty Senate.

“I have to be very careful about how I let impostor syndrome or doubt creep into my work,” McCalpine said.

However, McCalpine said she knows what she brings to the table and stands firm in her knowledge. 

“Even if someone does challenge me because I’m a Black woman, they will soon understand they shouldn’t have,” McCalpine said.

As Faculty Senate president, McCalpine said one of her main initiatives is to work with the university on specific retention and recruiting efforts for faculty of color. Representation in the classroom is particularly important for students of color, according to McCalpine, and she hopes her election will help open the door for more diversity at OSU as a whole.

Andrew Ketsdever, interim president at OSU-Cascades, said McCalpine has been a stalwart leader in the OSU-Cascades campus’ growth in diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“She has proven to be a well-regarded instructor and champion for student and staff well-being in all aspects of their engagement at OSU,” Ketsdever said. “Her professional experience combined with her personal lived experience will serve OSU well.”

While McCalpine said she does not intend to run for OSU university president, she does potentially see herself as a chief diversity officer at a university someday.

Scott Vignos, OSU interim vice-president and current chief diversity officer, said he is very excited to work with McCalpine in her new position as the Faculty Senate president. 

“Erika’s work as a faculty member has always meaningfully and consistently advanced equity and inclusion at OSU and I expect her tenure as leader of the Faculty Senate will be no different,” Vignos said.

According to McCalpine, the DEI Lab, OSU’s DEI consulting arm, or firm, allows McCalpine to work with businesses and organizations across Oregon to advance diversity initiatives and improve the workplace environment for their employees. 

McCalpine said Love Your Neighbor, the grassroots foundation she founded, aims to draw attention to the presence of a diverse population in Oregon and dispel the perception that there is no diversity in Central Oregon. 

“We are here, we deserve to be seen and our stories need to be told,” McCalpine said.

McCalpine said the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center’s calendar on their website features Black History Month events happening at OSU. In addition, McCalpine said students should keep an eye out for OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon’s social media campaign featuring Black staff, faculty and students. 

The Love Your Neighbor project will also hold a virtual forum on Feb. 24 in association with OSU to discuss Oregon’s Black exclusion laws and to celebrate Black excellence and success.

“We need to look to now as well, and notice that what our ancestors died for is happening,” McCalpine said. “Many of us are living the dreams our ancestors had for us, and I want to celebrate that.”

McCalpine said she encourages students—particularly students of color—to always believe in themselves and to accept and learn from their mistakes. She also said OSU faculty care about the student experience during the pandemic.

“Our faculty are doing all we can to support students through this time,” McCalpine said. “Please take advantage of the supports that are out there if you need them to help you all get through these very strange times that we’re living in.”