Michaela Woodward – Staff Writer
Assistant Director of the Center of Inclusive Excellence, Kareem Watts, has kept busy in his new position while getting adjusted to the Minnesota weather. Originally from Los Angeles, Watts has been working in higher education at public and private universities and colleges for over 12 years as an educator and administrator.
“I really just have a passion for students but also social justice and equity–helping to ensure that all students have the same abilities [and services] to be successful,” Watts said.
In his role in the CIE, he helps with programming and works to ensure that every student feels welcome.
“At my previous institution, I taught a social justice leadership course. We really focused on race, racism, the history of American slavery, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Civil Rights era. That’s something I’m really passionate about, based on my social and cultural identity as African American and male. I also know that in addition to being marginalized, I also have privileged identities such as being male. I try to create spaces for students of color and other marginalized communities like the LGBTQ+ community, making sure they feel welcome in the Center. Listening to their concerns, fears, or whatever it may be,” Watts said.
In addition to working on programming for the Center, Watts is the advisor for the Diversity Leadership Council and Pharaohs of the Future, is a part of Achievement Allies, and is on the President’s Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He is also a facilitator for the Diving Deeper Discussion series.
One recurring event Watts has started is The Lyrical Café, which is an opportunity for students to perform poetry, spoken word, or music every month.
“Students of all social and cultural identities can really express their talents and their experiences,” Watts said.
The theme of The Lyrical Café this month is “I Am First,”part of the First Forward Month initiative to celebrate first-generation students. First-generation students who will graduate this spring and would like to perform are encouraged to reach out to Watts via email. The Lyrical Café performance will take place in the Dive on Friday, April 23.
“[Watts] has learned so much in just four-five months. He has been a great resource to the Diversity Leadership Council as the advisor and he also brings a fresh new perspective to any of the ideas we have. It has been great working with him, we have had some good laughs in just these short number of months. He was integral in our planning for the Diversity Ball. [Watts] helps us out whenever we need it,” Diversity Leadership Council Co-President Jorge Omana said.
A first-generation student himself, Watts hopes that during First Forward month, students can focus on their success in all areas, not just academics.
“I’m a first-generation student. I graduated from community college several years ago. I went on to graduate, several years later – I took a break, from Viola University, earning my bachelor’s and then later on got my Master’s in Higher Education Administration from Southern New Hampshire University,” Watts said.
“[During First Forward Month] we really try to take time and recognize our first-generation students to ensure their success. Not only their [academic] success but also, we want to make sure that they are being engaged, that their social experience is going well,” Watts said.
In addition to academic and social engagement, he also has an emphasis on healthy living.
“Some of my other hobbies [include] exercising. I like to exercise. Stay healthy. Eat healthy to strengthen my immune system in these crazy times. I encourage students to stay healthy, stay strong. Exercise. Eat some ginger, kale, some natural ways of boosting the immune system,” Watts said.
Additionally, he has a passion for music and is a poet and performer himself. He encourages students to follow him on Instagram (@Foreignziks) to learn more about his music and poetry.