New diversity officer hopes to remove barriers for students and staff at the college

In May 2021, the college hired its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, a role the college says is necessary to help remove barriers to student success, increase staff and faculty diversity and build a sense of belonging for everyone at CCC. Casey Layton, a Warner Pacific alum who recently worked for Multnomah County, said she sees herself as an offensive lineman who can take the blows and create a pathway for others to have a less bumpy ride.

The Clackamas Print: What was your first job as a DEI leader?

Casey Layton: I would actually say it was prior to me even having my first job working at a pizza parlor, or babysitting. When I was in junior high school, I got trained as a peer conflict mediator. And I still to this day, kind of rely on the skills that I learned in that space. Mainly, it was about listening to folks. We learned a lot about listening. Also, it allowed me an opportunity to help like my peers navigate rough situations, especially where we felt injustice was happening and helping them find their voice. So that was a wonderful experience.

TCP: How do you feel about your position here at CCC?

Layton: Since I started, I’ve felt very supported in my role by my manager, who happens to be Dr. Tim Cook, and by my peers. I’ve had an opportunity to start to meet and build relationships with folks across the campus. I’m just getting started meeting some of the other groups such as the ASG and folks that are helping out in the multicultural center. I haven’t had a chance to really interface with many of those students yet. I really want to hear what they’re doing, and how I can support them. Additionally, I think we’ve had some challenges with our DEI committee, not because the committee itself isn’t filled with wonderful people, but because we had some losses in our membership that were somewhat unexpected. It’s really taken its toll on the group, for us to find some of our grounding, but we’re picking up speed now.

TCP: Will you, as the Chief DEI Officer, also aid those with mental limitations and disabilities such as those with autism? 

Layton: Of course. This position really sits at the helm of the DEI efforts at the college. Reaching out to folks across the ability spectrum and finding ways to remove barriers for those students and employees, so that they can feel like they have an opportunity and access to reaching their goals, without limitations, is a big part of this role. It’s something that we take into consideration often. We’re always asking ourselves: What are the demographics? Who are the folks that are most impacted by the decisions that we make? Especially as we’re redesigning and doing process improvement with our projects and programs on the college campus.

TCP: Is there an instance that sticks out to you where you went above and beyond to help someone?

Layton: One of the things I really love about my job is being able to empower folks, and at my previous position, in my previous role, at my previous organization, we really were intentional about holding up folks who had potential but didn’t have access to exploring new career opportunities and for promotion. And I really was able to mentor a colleague of mine and help them grow their DEI lens. I always think of myself as like an offensive lineman in football, where I kind of take the blows and try to create a pathway for them to have a less bumpy ride, into stepping into the fullness of who they are as a person and as an employee for the organization. This person really gained in confidence, and was able to take on a promotional role. And they were even able to present to our board about their journey and the different strategies that we use to help provide that pathway. I am very proud of that, it was a very interpersonal relationship, and I was able to help remove barriers to watch to see them be successful, and they continue to grow and help to mentor me now as well.

TCP: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Layton: Well, if it’s not on a beach in Hawaii relaxing, I would say my future goals are to be with the college for quite some time. I find myself really wanting to dive deep into helping to set up sustainable programs. And in regards to you know, how to keep folks using an equity and inclusion lens in the work that they do all across the campus and that goes from recruitment and retention. Have students and employees do program development and curriculum development across the college. And so that to me is kind of a long term goal. I could see myself coaching and supporting other women of color that are in leadership roles, I have a lot to learn myself before I feel like I’m probably ready for that. But it can be challenging and isolating, just being a woman of color in spaces where I’m usually the only one and advocating for things that are different in our systems. So I could see myself, as I learned more, being able to be a guide and support to others who might be walking in similar footsteps and pathways.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Joson Baldridge

Joson Baldridge is a student at Clackamas Community College who was born and raised in Canby, Oregon. Joson started with The Clackamas Print in the fall of 2021, although, he has been a CCC student since fall 2019. He is looking to explore journalism and has a special interest in photography. In his free time, Joson enjoys creating YouTube videos.