The Office of Multicultural Enrichment has a new leader. After an extensive search for candidates, Russ Kirby has been named the new director of the Office of Multicultural Enrichment.
“Russ gets it, he is well versed in multicultural competencies, ” said Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president of student life and dean of students.
Thompson said the appointment is unique because Kirby is a white man in a position that typically is filled by a minority staff member.
“It is important to note that typically these positions in similar multicultural offices in other universities are filled by an ethnic minority,” Thompson said. “Obviously, Russ Kirby is Anglo person.”
Kirby, director of the office of multicultural enrichment, said he agrees that it is rare that an office of diversity is not lead by a minority.
“We are doing something that is definitely not the norm, outside the box, but my experiences were not the norm and outside the box,” Kirby said.
Kirby has many experiences that helped shape his perception of the world. One of the stories Kirby said changed his life happened in the 80’s when he was 8 years old.
“I developed a friendship with one of the few African-American kids in my elementary,” Kirby said. “We quickly became best friends.”
Kirby said his other friends were not comfortable with the friendship and told him he needed to choose them or him.
“I couldn’t picture to leave the friendship behind. I chose him and lost all my friends,” Kirby said. “Our lives became intertwined.”
One day the two were sitting outside when some of Kirby’s old friend’s older brothers appeared.
“They were wannabe white supremacists, full of hate. We didn’t even see them,” Kirby said. “They beat me up. I didn’t know that kind of hate existed.”
Kirby said they warned him that if he didn’t stop being his friend there would be consequences.
“I needed his friendship, so I continued our friendship,” Kirby said.
A week later, Kirby was riding his bike home when the boys came after him with a gun.
“They shot at me. The bullet whizzed past my left ear,” Kirby said. “That literally was the moment that changed the rest of my life.”
Kirby said at that moment he decided to invest his life in issues of race and culture. He has dedicated his life to studying these patterns and discovering how to bring diversity together.
Kirby said the office wants to be the leader for diversity in Church of Christ universities. He said he is excited for what the future holds for the Office of Multicultural Enrichment.
“I get to come to work in the morning and work on diversity,” Kirby said. “It is amazing.”