Carter Brown – Staff Writer
On May 27, 2021, Gustavus got a new addition to the President’s Cabinet; the first vice president (VP) for Equity and Inclusion. Doug Thompson, PhD, introduced himself yesterday on Oct. 6, 2021. A man of values, the very first thing Thompson talked about is family, something he holds very dearly and takes pride in.
“One thing I always want people to know [is] that I’m a family person, I’m a person of values, I have a large family. My wife and I have been married for 20 years [and] I have a family of three boys and three girls. Values are everything to me. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with family, I’m a music lover, I enjoy reading, exercising, fitness; really I enjoy things that help me love life. I am simple in that regard, but I live life to the fullest. I am a lifelong learner.” Thompson said.
And as a relationship-oriented person, he finds that his role as the VP for Equity and Inclusion to be a perfect fit for him. When discussing the nature of his role, Thompson elaborates on the importance of working together to make a difference in the community.
“I think my role is amazing. It’s an incredible opportunity to make change and make a difference and that lines up with my personal ways and values. I do this work because I do want to make a difference. I have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of the students here, the faculty, the staff, and even the alumni. Some people don’t know why this work is important. In reality, this will not be easy as we change a culture, as we try to make a difference, because we have to change a lot of systems and structures. And it’s going to take a long time; it’s a marathon not a sprint. But I’m here for it, I’m here for the long haul, because I know it’s not gonna take one or two years. This work is ongoing.”, Thompson said.
And equity and inclusion work serves as a personal motivator for him as well. He describes his own feelings and struggles of belonging and, again, emphasises the importance of developing a diverse and inclusive community.
“I’ve been in spaces where it’s been so different, so white. I’ve been looked upon in some way with all my credentials – even with my PhD. And in some ways it exists because it’s natural for them to make you feel that way. Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, and inclusion is an action. When I think about inclusion, it’s the cultural and environmental feeling of belonging and feeling like you’re in a group or a community. Where people feel like their values are respected and included.” Thompson said.
Thompson’s solution to developing such a community? Communication. He is a people person and enjoys talking to others and developing relationships. His personal view is that only together can we foster a community like this – not just him alone.
“What’s important is communicating. What’s important is community. What’s important is being accessible. I don’t want them to have to look for me — I want them to find me by simply emailing or calling. I just want to be present. I’ve had meet and greets, I’ve established office hours every week almost for three hour increments. This is important to me because people may not feel comfortable coming to my office — to the administration building. So I come to where they are. I’m listening to their pain points and their motivators and that’s important to get this work done. I noticed that our community wants to engage.” Thompson said.
Community, as Thompson reiterates, is very important. Connections are what makes change, in his eyes. This is why he holds office hours frequently, so that our community can engage with him and learn – so he can listen.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better.’ by Maya Angelou. This quote applies to Gustavus a lot. I don’t think people are perfect but they want to do better. ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is how we grow and listen.’ That to me is important – community engagement and learning. Not when just some major injustice or atrocity takes place, not when someone just gets killed as a cop. We have to unlearn bias and relearn how to humanize each other. I’m going to meet everyone who wants to meet with me. I want to meet every student, every faculty member, every staff member so that we can do good things together.” Thompson said.
“I’m really excited. That is the one thing I want to impress upon everyone. I think we have an amazing opportunity to transform this college. To transform our future. We talk a lot about ‘Show the World’, but I think we as a community have an opportunity to show the world how we positively affect the lives of our community. To show the world how we love each other.
How we care about people no matter who they are or what they bring. I am so fortunate and blessed that I can serve in this opportunity to lead the charge because I think we have an opportunity to change this place. Some people may have seen me in videos or something, but it’s okay to talk to me. It’s okay to speak! I love people, I love talking to people. I’m not so caught up in the bigness of the role — I want to connect with you and I want to know you.” Thompson said.
Thompson referenced both his office hours and a workshop that is going to be held soon in the upcoming months focusing on unlearning biases and how we can grow as a community. His office hours can also be found around campus. If you have any more questions, please contact Doug Thompson at