Instilling Balance: An interview with Jason Dorsette, the new Executive Director of the EDI.
Jason Dorsette has officially been on campus working as the Executive Director of the Institution for Equity, Diversity.
Raised in North Carolina, Dorsette comes from a close-knit community of civil rights activists who he says he tries to channel so that he can continue supporting underrepresented people. “I have lived as an underrepresented person all of my life, where I also had training ever since I was a wee lad as how to navigate, what to do, how to resist [discrimination],” said Dorsette. This is what prepared him in the beginning of his path to create positive change, he continues to learn from those he surrounds himself with.
Before his work and education began in Oregon, Dorsette attended North Carolina Central University in Durham. While there, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in History, and a Masters in Public Policy and Administration. He went on to teach seventh grade in Washington D.C., which is where his roots in social and civic justice began. Dorsette also volunteered with D.C.’s Department of Education to mentor and support students of color who are underrepresented and under supported. While at NCCU, The Male Achievement Center at the university went from 22 Black students to 350 in the four years Dorsette was Director.
The work he did there attracted the attention of Oregon State University, offering him a position in the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP).
Dorsette moved to Corvallis in 2014 accepting the position of Director of the EOP at OSU.
He said that the main difference between the Director position at OSU and the Executive Director position at LBCC is, he is now in direct contact with the president of not just our college, but other colleges and universities as well. Dorsette adds “I get to sell LBCC… So that’s what I’m really excited about.”
Dorsette also serves as the president of the NAACP (National Association of Advancement for Colored People). It was after President Angel Harris stepped down that he was elected to the presidency. During Harris’ presidency, he served as the vice president. He has held this position since Jan. 2021 and will remain until 2023.
Dorsette says that his work at Linn-Benton will directly support his work with the NAACP. “[The NAACP’s] jurisdiction covers all of the cities in between the two [Linn and Benton] counties… So, all this work really aligns quite well, and it speaks to who I am at my core, as I was raised by a long legacy of many civil rights and social justice leaders.”
Much of Dorsette’s work has been about improving diversity in old systems. He expresses how he shares many of the same frustrations as other people of color do, such as not having basic needs met in terms of having someone in town who knows how to cut their hair or having culturally relevant food options. In order to combat these issues, Dorsette has made an effort to keep in contact with Corvallis officials. He has since been able to build the program Imagine Corvallis Action Network (ICAN) using his experience in political, civic, and social involvement.
Currently, Dorsette’s goals on campus include creating and conducting a “campus climate survey.” It will help him and the other people he will be working with to navigate and understand issues around campus.
He also wants to work with LB’s human resources department and other deans of other colleges around faculty and staff retention; “the institutions of higher education have a hard time retaining women [who work] on campus, folk of color, and queer folk.”
By finding volunteer opportunities and part time positions, he hopes to help students become more involved with EDI. He also is aiming to create “affinity spaces”, which he describes as spaces that students who are alike (such as sexual orientation, skin color, or religion) can come together and be in a room where they can relate to one another.
The EDI student ambassadors have held their meetings on zoom but are enthusiastic about having in-person meetings in the near future.
In addition to bringing the ‘umph!’ to campus, Dorsette says that his favorite spots to go are the Roadrunner Cafe for breakfast in Takena Hall, where he is a fan of the biscuits and gravy for breakfast. This is also his go-to order from Brick and Mortar in downtown Albany. In Corvallis, he loves going to Block 15 for their burgers and tater tots, and goes to Chipotle almost three times a week where he loves getting the half steak, half chicken burrito with extra sour cream and mild salsa.
Dorsette says that he is now four states away from a goal he made to visit all 50 states before he turned 50; he says that North and South Dakota, Hawaii, and Alaska are all that remain.
He hopes he will get to Hawaii and Alaska sooner than later since he is now closer.
Dorsette exclaims that he is known to be a sharp dresser, and that he’s been like this since a young age. “I was always told that I should dress for the position I wanted.” Additionally, he wants to be an example to those who look up to him, especially Black and Brown boys, so that they may see themselves in his shoes. He wants the youth to see that “there are many facets, not only to fashion, but [to] Blackness, or queerness, or Brownness.”