Poet Matthew Shenoda has been named the first Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity at California Institute of the Arts. The newly created position is part of an institute-wide initiative to promote intercultural awareness and develop support mechanisms for students from varying ethnic backgrounds.
“We are delighted to welcome Matthew as the first to hold this position,” CalArts provost Nancy Uscher said in a press release. “He is a distinguished poet and scholar with extensive teaching experience and a serious commitment to developing and enriching diverse academic and artistic settings. As an artist, he has a natural feel for broadening and deepening the concepts of equity and diversity to include aesthetic and cultural views of the world.”
Shenoda, age thirty-two, teaches ethnic studies and creative writing at the Valencia-based college’s School of Critical Studies. In 2005, when his collection Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press) was among the debut books featured in Poets & Writers Magazine, Shenoda spoke of his time in an MFA program. “It was an atmosphere of false competition, little community, and a real aversion to certain styles of writing, points of view, and recognition of the varied global traditions in poetry,” he said. “I was one of very few students of color in my MFA program, and it felt like a conformist atmosphere, where the content of one’s work was not to reflect real-world issues, especially in regard to race and culture.”
The new appointment increases Shenoda’s ability to ensure that the experiences of future students are more nurturing than his own. “This position is a natural extension of my work as an artist and educator to foster diverse academic and artistic settings and reflects my long-term commitment to community-inspired arts education,” he said in yesterday’s press release. “I am deeply interested in contributing to the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, helping students build organizations that reflect their specific cultural interests, and creating campus-wide policies that will institutionalize these efforts at CalArts for the long term.”
Shenoda’s latest collection of poetry, Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone, is forthcoming in the fall from BOA Editions.