Fall semester is about to get underway, and four new staff members are on hand at the University of Florida’s Multicultural and Diversity Affairs office, joining a highly capable team already in place to help cultivate a more inclusive campus community.
At the helm is Will Atkins, who served as interim executive director of MCDA and who co-led the Black Student Affairs Task Force. Following a national search, Atkins was elevated to the position full time. He is a proud Gator alum and honored to serve the university in this capacity.
Atkins previously served for two years as assistant director of UF’s Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, where he advised first-generation, low-income undergraduate students and connected them with campus and community resources. At Miami University before that, he was associate director sorority and fraternity life. He also worked at the University of Michigan in Greek Life and campus activities.
Under Atkins’ leadership, MCDA partnered this summer with the Career Resource Center’s inclusive recruiter initiative and with UF Human Resources on inclusion efforts for faculty and staff. MCDA also held sessions on “Understanding our Global Community” with incoming students, and led committees toward developing plans for the Institute of Black Culture and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, known as “La Casita.” Currently, the department has revised the ambassador program and is enhancing one of its signature social justice education programs called Gatorship. The department also is revitalizing the PAACT program, a four-day welcome for incoming Black students.
Also, new this fall are:
The new director of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer Affairs, Billy Huff, comes to UF from the University of South Florida, where he was an instructor in the department of communication. He previously taught in communication at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he also served as the adviser for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
“I come to MCDA after 15 years in faculty and teaching positions,” Huff said. “I was always the most passionate, however, about the work I did with students outside the classroom. This work included working with LGBTQ youth in the community and advising LGBTQ student organizations. I am thrilled to have a position that allows me to unite my academic work in Queer Theory, Trans Studies, and social movements with my passion for supporting and advocating for students. I hope to work with students to create a welcoming and affirming space for all LGBTQ students at UF.”
As part of MCDA, LGBTQ Affairs educates, advocates and supports LGBTQ people at UF and in the local community via student-centered programming, outreach, community building and advocacy in order to create a safe and developmentally supportive campus community for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.
Jack Nguyen, who was named director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs, began in mid-July. As intercultural specialist in the Student Life Multicultural Center at The Ohio State University, he oversaw planning, development and implementation of all Asian American intercultural programming to address and highlight engagement.
“My journey into higher education and student affairs stems from my involvements during my undergraduate career within a number of student organizations and initiatives created by the university to support first year students as well as learning in depth about this field as I had a number of work study positions within the Division of Student Affairs,” Nguyen said. “I believe what excites me the most about the opportunity as the incoming director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs is building an inclusive and just space with my colleagues, peers and students for all who utilize our space. The potential possibilities are endless, and I hope that I can work toward advocating the needs of our underrepresented, underserved and marginalized communities on and beyond our campus.”
As part of MCDA, APIA Affairs promotes deeper understanding of APIA issues and identity while empowering and advocating for the needs of the community.
Overseeing Black Affairs, which creates, sustains, promotes and affirms black scholarship, culture history and leadership is Carl Simien, who served as director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at Western Illinois University. A former college and career director at Umoja Student Development Corporation in Chicago, he also has served as the program coordinator of the Roberts Family Development Center in Sacramento.
Simien’s student development background and experience working with TRiO programs, the U.S. Department of Education student support services, have shaped his ambition for empowering students, he says.
“I love being in community with students and having the opportunity to support them as they pursue their goals and aspirations,” Simien said. “I love getting to witness students discover their ability to have a meaningful impact on campus and in their communities. My vision for Black Affairs includes initiatives focused on supporting student retention, leadership and professional development of students and engagement with UF alumni.”
Danielle Domingo is a proud Gator grad who earned her degree in family, youth, and community sciences with minors in leadership and nonprofit organizations. She brings valuable experiences to MCDA, especially her leadership with the Preview Staff Orientation Program, the Dean of Students Office, and the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. She volunteers with local youth in Gainesville and has served as the Mission Trip Coordinator for a local nonprofit called Projects for Haiti, Inc.
Domingo is passionate about organizational leadership, mentorship and empowerment. In her role with MCDA, she will oversee the University Minority Mentor Program. UMMP is the only mentoring program that matches a first-year undergraduate student with a faculty or staff mentor to assist with the student’s transition to college. This program makes a large university campus seem smaller as connections are made and mentors encourage our students to complete a degree.
The search process for each new post included on-campus and live-streamed interviews with search committees.
“This is truly an exciting time for MCDA. We have a dynamic team with great passion, vision and commitment for our students and our work,” said Atkins. “We are focused on providing identity-based and culturally responsive resources, education and community for our campus. We know that The Gator Nation comprises students, faculty and staff from various backgrounds, identities and experiences. They are meaningful, powerful, and should be respected by all. Our role is to use education as a vehicle for our community to embrace humanity.”