» Staff Perspectives

photo of Maria Contreras
Maria Contreras
Associate Director
Admissions Systems and Operations
After working in Higher Education for over 25 years my experiences and background and having an Information Systems career has allowed me to see higher education from many perspectives. Growing up in the heart of East Los Angeles also contributed to my drive to improve the educational experience for all. Some students at the minority level just get pushed through the systems of education with nothing to show for it when they graduate high school. Why? Because no one cared enough to reach out a hand. My life has not been easy by any measure but I have learned that education is a key that all should hold and have access to at all levels. I have had many reach that hand out to me so I want to do the same for those who need it. At Chapman, I have been available to Rueben Martinez who is Dr. Doti’s Presidential Fellow and we have worked together to make sure the 1st generation and Latino students and parents get that extra attention they might need in the business of applying to college. To many of these parents the whole process is very foreign to them since they did not experience it at all. Not to mention the language barrier in this challenging process makes matters whose. So we are here for them just to talk sometimes and help them see the Family of Chapman University that may not be evident on first glance. Rueben Martinez and I have also started a group of faculty and staff called the ‘Latino Faculty and Staff Forum’. We wanted to combine these two groups to share their expertise and assist students. It is the first group of it’s kind here at Chapman to combine these two groups to work towards an effort to support students at all levels. We have existed since October 2015 but we are hard at work and we will be reaching out to the students this semester.
photo of Leticia  Romo
Leticia Romo
Chair of the Cross-Cultural Initiative and Assistant Director, Cross-Cultural Engagement
As much as I loved my undergraduate experience at my university, I remember very vividly the moments when I felt that I didn’t belong. It is the memory of those moments that motivate me to make sure that I am working hard to ensure that all Chapman students feel like they belong. Whether it is reading an article to learn more about a particular culture, taking the time to empower a student in an aspect of their identity, or whether it means respectfully challenging stereotypes and biases in meetings I am part of, I try to be a voice for all students. Although we as an institution and individuals have a lot to grow, it is always so rewarding to see the care and work being done.
photo of Susan Sams
Susan Sams
International Student & Scholar Services
Center for Global Education
(714) 997-6829
As an international student advisor in the International Student & Scholar Services office my entire focus centers around our diverse population of international students and professors/research scholars (exchange visitors). We have students and professors/research scholars from approximately 68 countries and they embody a wide variety of cultures. It is my goal to educate the Chapman community regarding our amazing group of international students and exchange visitors who are present on the Chapman campus. By providing cultural sessions, inviting students to speak at a culture centered class lecture and highlighting diversity at our annual International Food Fair, I hope to get the word out that this diverse group is present on our campus and there is much we can all learn from them. We welcome you and are excited about the wealth of knowledge and culture you bring to our campus.
photo of Nancy Brink
Nancy Brink
Director of Church Relations
Fish Interfaith Center
Ever student, faculty and staff person has a unique and special story. I have a heart for those who society has placed on the margins, particularly LGBTQIA people and our female students who are learning to navigate in patriarchy. Our world is increasingly diverse—enclaves of (assumed) homogeneity are being disrupted by globalization, the internet and intentional building of inclusive community. Students need to graduate from Chapman with a broad knowledge base for human diversity and have skills in negotiating life with a wide variety of people. We need to help all faculty and staff be fully prepared to mentor our students for this new reality. We need to model openness, trust and disagreement without being disagreeable. I promote interfaith awareness, sometimes even teaching a workshop on this issue. I have been a Safe Space trainer and teach a Bible study each semester looking at the 6 “clobber” passages in the Bible that are used by some Christians to denigrate LGBTQIA people. I continue to do further my own education, reading books, seeing films and entering discussions on diversity topics such as race, sexism and privilege. We are not perfect, but we are committed to working on the intersections of different identities and finding ways to support those who live without privilege. We promote training and being involved outside of the workplace.
photo of Justin Koppelman
Justin Koppelman
Assistant Director of Cross-Cultural Engagement and Civic Engagement Initiatives
Student Engagement
(714) 997-6894
If we are to fulfill our mission of providing an educational experience that leads to inquiring, ethical, and productive lives as global citizens, I believe creating spaces for ongoing reflection of who we are and aspire to be as individuals and communities is essential. The development of active and informed global citizenship requires learning about the experiences of others, developing our capacities for working and dialoging across difference, and responding to the ways in which economic, environmental, social, and political issues impact communities in different ways. In supporting the University’s efforts to prepare students for lives of civic engagement and responsibility, I see diversity and inclusion as a significant part of that goal. For me, implicit in the idea and act of civic engagement, is the need to see ourselves as part of a larger social fabric and developing the knowledge, skills, and motivations for responsible engagement in our diverse society. I work to advance diversity and inclusion through fostering connections with our local community; overseeing programmatic efforts designed to support learning about economic, environmental, social, and political issues on local, national, and global scales; and providing direct advising and support to students as they learn more about who they are, who they aren’t, and who they want to be. We have a great deal of capacity as an institution and with that comes incredible opportunities to work with our local communities to address serious community problems and needs. This often involves intentional listening and learning about the root causes and disproportionate impact of those problems/needs and developing capacity for working with diverse communities. In our programmatic efforts, we strive to do the best we can to leave students with bits of new knowledge and new peer-to-peer relationships that can support their active inquiry into issue of diversity, inclusion, and civic engagement. Direct support often includes conversing with students to process experiences of difference, think critically about the ways in which they show up as members of their communities, and further their resilience to barriers they encounter in life. I would want our community to be mindful of the necessary connection between diversity and inclusion and our mission of global citizenship. Our mission cannot be fulfilled fully if we do not practice and model ways of engaging diversity and holding the tension that comes with it in life-affirming ways. Whether working to create a welcoming campus community, a more just national community, or a more conscious global community, the knowledge about, skills for, and value for diversity and inclusion are essential.
photo of Sahzeah Babylon
Sahzeah Babylon
Career Education
Career Development Center
I earned my graduate degree in School Counseling from Chapman University and had some of the worst exclusionary experiences here as a student from other students. I think that like a lot of other students, once I was marginalized I disconnected from the campus experience and did not ever experience the wealth of opportunities that were then available to me. When I was fortunate to be hired as the Career Educator in the CDC, it was my personal mission (and still is) to create an environment for my students that celebrates diversity fostering inclusion. I have made it a point to reach out to all nontraditional students because they all represent many aspects of student diversity on our campus, including transfer, international, veterans, those with disabilities, and first generation. I have been a member of the Perceptions Task Force and am now part of the LGBTQ Task Force, I volunteer for AmeriCorp on our campus, providing resume presentations and teaching high school strategies to be successful after high school. Students in AmeriCorp are from the inner city and have less access to higher level opportunities, they are often also potential first generation students. I would advise students who have exclusionary experiences to reach out to faculty and staff on campus. This is a place where people do care and are concerned, there are resources that recognize your value. Don’t ever disconnect, instead reconnect with people who will foster your inclusion and always remember: you are not alone and your experiences are not as singular as they feel! Take full advantage of the people on campus who offer their help! As long as you approach people with kindness and respect you will find so many open doors and open faces to greet you!
no photo available for Elizabeth  Wilson
Elizabeth Wilson
Counselor, Student Psychological and Counseling Services
I am the co-advisor of the Active Minds club on campus. Active Minds is an organization with a particular commitment to diversity, as it increases awareness of mental health issues in college students. A good description of this national organizations function is clearly labeled in the mission statement: “As part of our mission, we require of ourselves a commitment to work toward the recognition and elimination of prejudice and discrimination, especially those that have traditionally impinged upon culturally competent mental health services” In many ways, the Active Minds mission statement describes exactly what we represent at Student Psychological Counseling Services. Active Minds puts on events like “Furry friends for finals” in which we bring dogs on campus in order to provide stress reduction for students who are entrenched in exam-related stress. We also have an event called “Send Silence Packing” to raise awareness about suicide prevention and recognizing signs of mental health issues. I am a full time staff member at Student Psychological Counseling Services. As a part of my work, I see a wide variety of individuals, each of whom arrives with their own particular concerns or struggles. I strive to make sure that each of my clients is treated as unique individual. In addition to offering brief individual therapy, I have also lead group therapy and workshops. Here, students are given an opportunity to express themselves, as well as learn from the similar or dissimilar experiences of their peers. We see students from every different demographic represented here at Chapman University. My consistent goal is to make myself accessible to any and every student on campus. Certain groups of the population at Chapman underutilize our services, so my colleagues and I engage in outreach around campus in order to help let every group on campus know that we’re here…and that we’re enthusiastic about helping! The clients seen by our staff at SPCS come from all walks of life, and mental disorders do not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. We serve every group represented on campus. As a licensed therapist, I regularly engage in continuing education and conferences that keep my therapeutic knowledge current. I have also been trained through Safe Space. I have additional training and certification in working with people with PTSD or other trauma related issues. I have played a role in orientation activities and discussions with RA’s in order to bring further awareness about the fact that we at SPCS are here to assist all of the students who would benefit from our services.