Safe ZoneSister Kathleen Sullivan’s role as Saint Joseph’s chief sponsorship and mission integration officer is to manage the College’s identity as a Catholic, Mercy institution of higher education—one that is a comfortable, inviting place for students, faculty, and staff from all walks of life. This role includes building a strong, sustainable foundation for supporting and celebrating the diversity of the College community.

“How can we create an awareness of the differences among us?” she asks. To begin the process of raising this awareness, Sister Kathleen formed the Diversity Committee in the spring of 2014. The committee will focus on the theme of respect in its first year, and will celebrate the differences within the community—whether that is in terms of sexual orientation, race, religion, or culture.

“We have a responsibility as a Mercy organization to heighten the awareness of what is happening in our world. As an educational institution, we need to examine how we increase understanding among our students, who have the potential to change the world after they graduate from the College.”

Composed of nearly 20 members from the College including faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the committee has already begun tackling the tough issues, selecting to make the College a ‘Safe Zone’ as its first initiative.

Safe Zone is a nationally utilized program designed to raise awareness and create tolerance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals through a series of training workshops and the designation of all-inclusive spaces on campus. The program has been launched at institutions such as Boston College, New York University, Georgetown University, and Duke University, as well as at several schools belonging to the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (of which Saint Joseph’s is a member).

By emphasizing acts of civility and sensitivity for all, the program creates a strong foundation for the College’s growing diversity. “I want to focus on the core values of dignity and respect for everyone,” says Sister Kathleen. “It is not only about our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters but also about other cultures, races, and religions that are here on campus.”

In March, voluntary training programs were held and a pledge circulated for faculty and staff to sign in support of the initiative, making Saint Joseph’s one of several other Mercy colleges and universities to officially become Safe Zone-affiliated. A tangible sign of the program’s successful implementation and overwhelmingly positive reception: the creation of Saint Joseph’s first ever Gay-Straight Student Alliance.

Members of the Diversity Committee represent the many communities that form the College. From staff to faculty and to students, they help guide the College’s diversity programming.

Members include:
Sister Kathleen Sullivan
Amy Rady
Dan Estey
Elaine Trumble
Hope Abarno
Katrina Hoop
Kristine Avery
Sue Kelly
Vincent Kloskowski ‘95
Justin Packard
Audrey Curry
Frank Daggett ‘80, ‘07
Charlotte Mattingly
Jenelle Harris

Illustration by Yu Ping Hu ’15