Pierce District dean recognized with national award

Maddie Ashcraft, Photographer

Pierce College Business and Social Science District Dean Sachi Horback recently earned national recognition for her work with student and faculty equity.

She was given the Bernice Joseph Award through the Western Interstate  Commission for Higher Education for building student and faculty equity and diversity through mentorship and service.

The award was created specifically through the Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders for the purpose of honoring a program developed to inspire positive change for staff, faculty and students within two-year colleges, focusing on innovation and creativity.

“The Bernice Joseph Award is a great way to honor great ideas and great resource sharing,” Jeremy Simon, Director of Strategic Communications for the WICHE said.

Horback joined Pierce in 2014 as dean after tenuring at multiple universities on the East Coast. She is also a clinical psychologist and takes time to counsel students and staff on campus.

Horback’s interest in psychology sparked in high school, when she joined a student-to-student counseling program, providing opportunities for her fellow students to have a mediator and confidant for daily life in school.

While Horback loved her time as a professor and faculty member, she finds joy as a dean to support faculty in their roles, helping them to grow professionally. While Horback does not work in the classroom, the focus is still on the students.

Horback was granted the Bernice Joseph Award this April, created to honor the executive dean of the College of Rural Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks of the same name, who passed away in 2014.

An advocate for education for her native people, Joseph sought to break down stereotypes and allow greater accessibility to higher education for all students.

After an intensive review by the selection committee comprised of highly-regarded academic leaders within the 15 states and Pacific Territories recognized by the WICHE, Horback was awarded the recognition for her Cross-Institution Faculty of Color Mentorship Program.

Sharing similar passions with Joseph, Horback says her initial reaction to receiving the award was humbling.

“I was so honored, especially given that this is the Bernice Joseph Award,” Horback said. “My focus has really been equity mindedness, so to get this award was particularly meaningful for me.”

While the award is specifically given to Horback, the entirety of the title is given to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges for funding Horback’s program.  

“(Horback) was tireless in her effort to ensure that all who wanted to get a college education had a pathway to that dream and that the education they received was high quality,” Pat Shea, director of the Alliance said. “This award recognizes those who serve in that same spirit and make a contribution that can be replicated or scaled to improve the higher education experience more broadly.”

Working toward bringing more equality and impartiality for students and faculty, Horback believes that Pierce has succeeded in helping students with retention and completion.

Additionally, Horback sees that Pierce has brought down barriers for specific courses, especially accelerated learning.  

This has allowed Pierce to view a student’s learning more holistically, bringing them from start to finish. Recognizing student issues,

Pierce has done well in providing scholarships to students, along with practical support, such as the food pantries on campus. “We’ve made a lot of strides, there’s great clubs and organizations but like anything, there is still so much to do. There’s so much more that can be done to engage our students of color, to close our equity gaps.”

Horback believes that there are many ways that Pierce could continue to support faculty of color, and bring greater diversity to curriculum presented to students.

One of Horback’s most important efforts to achieve equity for colleges and universities is her development of the Cross-Institution Faculty of Color Mentorship Program.  Horback was given the Bernice Joseph Award because of her innovation in the creation of the program.

Achieving national recognition will provide lasting stability for the mentorship program, she believes.

“My hope is that this program will lead to thinking about other types of support and programming, and additional mentorship opportunities,” Horback said.

Although Horback works with professors and higher education staff, she contends that any student can be a part of bridging the gap for diversity and equity. Highlighting mentorship, students can participate in guiding other students toward retention. Horback envisions a multi-layered mentorship program, with college students helping high school students, and high school students guiding junior high students, acting as role models and confidants.

“It’s always important if students can think outside of their own perspective, just like all of us,” Horback said. “How many opportunities are there that reflect the non-dominant population?”

Although Horback believes clubs provide community for specific groups, promoting diversity and inclusion on campus starts with student government.

From the beginning of her work at Pierce, Horback has strived to promote equal opportunity for all students with a continual future focus in place.

“This is a continuous process. It is important that we move to that equity-minded worldview,” Horback said. “If we always keep this at the forefront, if it’s a part of every conversation, if everything is looked at through the view of equity mindedness, then we will see more common practice.”

Focusing on mentorship, Horback says that equity is promoted through authentic relationships and community, while engaging and recognizing built-in barriers. Horback sees a person’s perspective like a pair of glasses; she maintains that equity-mindedness should be a consistent conversation.

“Remember, it’s not a lens, it’s a worldview,” Horback said.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

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Pierce District dean recognized with national award

by Maddie Ashcraft time to read: 4 min
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