Rachel Fredericks recently assumed her new role at Sewanee as the Interim Director of Multicultural Affairs, to the excitement of many Sewanee colleagues and students. . To her, this position is more than just a new job: it is a passion and a purpose that she is excited to embrace.
In an interview with The Purple, Fredericks expressed her gratitude for the Sewanee community and its confidence in her abilities, what drew her to this position, and her goals for the current and upcoming semesters. “Thank you to the Sewanee community for the opportunity. For their trust in me…I am very appreciative of being trusted in that way and I look forward to working with every single person on this campus…Our success is the success of the entire institution.”
Fredericks brings a new perspective to this role, and her experience both in the Sewanee community and abroad has driven her towards this position she already loves. She has traveled extensively, including Panama, Egypt, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, and China. She attributes much of her worldly and cultural understanding to these opportunities.
Fredericks found that her travels “raised an awareness of how we experience culture. In those experiences, no matter what country I was in, I had to approach each person with a cultural humility. Those experiences taught me how to be willing to learn.”
As the Interim Director, she continues to bring this cultural humility and cultural openness to her new position and her interaction with students in Sewanee.
In addition to her broad multicultural experiences, her time at the Sewanee Career Center has also provided a strong foundation for Fredericks to take on this new challenge.
She believes that working at the Career Center was “necessary” because it prepared her for her new role and the new challenges she will be taking on. She states that “to learn Sewanee before you are in a position to highly impact Sewanee is important.”
Many at the Center will miss Fredericks on their staff, but they fully support her new position, not only as a friend and colleague but as an advocate for the diversity of Sewanee.
Melissa Webb proclaimed that Fredericks’s “energy and positive attitude were infectious,” and Kim Heitzenrater praises her “creativity, project-planning and execution skills, empathy and care, systems-level thinking, and a strategic lens.”
Fredericks also shares her goals for her time in the position and the positive impact she hopes to have on the awareness of diversity and inclusion in Sewanee.
Her first goal is research and data collection for the incoming Chief Diversity Officer: “I want to be able to support that person…so that they may come in with an understanding” of diversity here at Sewanee.
Her second goal is to create a diversity landing page on the University website. This page will highlight other programs already in Sewanee that are “making diversity their statement” and encourage people to explore those opportunities.
Fredericks’s third goal is to “gently start the social education of multiculturalism” so that we can begin to understand truly what multiculturalism is and what it means for us: “I think all of us have various ideas of what multiculturalism is…I want to start, in collaboration with colleagues, an awareness event to help us digest and understand what multiculturalism actually is.”
She hopes to start this conversation from the “social and academic standpoint” so that we can comprehend our individual roles in the “multicultural thread here at Sewanee.”
Fredericks’s fourth and final goal for the time being is to “be a support wherever [she] can.” This encapsulates the many projects she is a part of on campus which include the 213-A Leaders Program and the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation as well as her collaboration with colleagues. She aims to bring not only an awareness but also a fresh perspective to the subject of diversity and inclusion.
Fredericks hopes to uncover a broader understanding of multiculturalism in Sewanee and project that beyond the bubble. She is not only supported but encouraged by her colleagues and the University community as a whole in the work she will be doing.