Donned in masks, the first officers of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) were installed at a small event Friday, Sept. 18, at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). The adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not seem to hamper the feelings in the room. This was a momentous occasion.
“This is definitely a very exciting day at Florida Gulf Coast University,” said Tony Barringer, Ph.D., associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs. “This has been a labor of love for quite some time by a number of people.”
The purpose of the BFSA is to facilitate and influence educational, administrative and personnel policies in ways that enhance the welfare of Black members of FGCU for the betterment of the university community. The organization seeks to enhance the professional development of Black faculty and staff at FGCU, to amplify cultural competency across campus, and to enhance and maintain a diverse and inclusive environment for learning, teaching, research, and service. The group will also work to improve the Black experience of FGCU students, faculty and staff.
While attempts had been made to start a similar association in the past, the current effort to bring the BFSA to fruition started a year ago, according to Barringer.
“In no way is this a condemnation of [the previous] administration, but it’s truly an appreciation for the current administration and the fact that they were so supportive as far as us getting this off the ground and being encouraged to make this happen,” Barringer said.
FGCU President Mike Martin officially announced the BFSA in mid-February.
“As FGCU continues to champion diversity, inclusivity, and the overall value that such principles contribute to social entities, including the academic environment, we are pleased to announce the formation of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA),” Martin wrote to campus Feb. 17. “The BFSA is an employee resource group committed to developing a community and support network that nurtures the advancement of Black faculty and staff as a visible and vibrant aspect of FGCU’s quest for inclusive excellence in fair and equitable treatment of all.”
After two initial, virtual meetings, the new officers were installed during the BFSA’s first in-person meeting. The new officers for the BFSA are:
- President: Christopher Blakely, Ed.D., interim assistant vice president of campus life, dean of students and director of Multicultural and Leadership Development
- Vice President: Angela Corley, Ed.D., project director for Talent Search
- Treasurer: Saül Laguerre, program assistant for FGCU TRIO and Outreach Programs
- Secretary: Waneka McFarlane, coordinator for diversity and inclusion in the Office of Institutional Equity & Compliance
During the installation, Barringer asked each officer, “Do you pledge to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of [this office] and to serve, to the best of your ability, the members of Black Faculty and Staff Association?” Blakely, Corley, Laguerre and McFarlane all answered, “I do.”
Blakely, delivering his first comments as president, said, “The Black Faculty and Staff Association is looking forward to partnering with the university in strategies, initiatives and recommendations to really continue to strive forward to continue to move past the status quo, to extend past cultural competency to more cultural sustainability.”
In addition to officer installations, BFSA Champions Awards were presented to Barringer; Director of Equity, Ethics & Compliance and Title IX Coordinator Precious Gunter; Project Director of Student Support Services STEM Alexandra Pipitone; and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jim Llorens.
In a recent interview, Blakely said, “It’s my hope that the BFSA will be the foundation on which a thriving community of Black professionals is built. I mean this for FGCU and for all of Southwest Florida.”