Equity and inclusion are at the heart of Renton Technical College's mission, and that commitment led to a statewide award for the Board of Trustees and President Kevin McCarthy. The Washington Association of College Trustees will present its Equity Award to the college at its Spring Conference in May.
The award recognizes exemplary commitment to achieving equity in the development, administration and delivery of educational programs and services in the community and technical college system.
"This award reflects the collective commitment to advancing equity by the college's trustees, staff, and faculty," RTC President Kevin McCarthy said. "Everyone at the college, from the Board members to the staff, live out that mission daily."
Evaluators considered the college's demonstrable evidence of leadership in setting policies that promote and enhance opportunities for institutional diversity, inclusion, and equity for women, persons of color, LGBTQIA+, or members of any other underrepresented or underserved population over the last five years.
One of the goals of the 2017–2022 Strategic Plan is Equity: to nurture an academic and work environment that promotes fairness and removes systemic and institutional barriers. To the Board and president, that means identifying and addressing systemic and institutionalized racism and classism by reviewing policies, continually asking how decisions affect students from underrepresented communities, and actively pursuing opportunities for change and growth.
Under the Board and president's leadership, college faculty and staff have wholly embraced these values, laying the foundation for equitable instruction and student services to all students. Nearly 70 percent identify as students of color.
"I have seen firsthand how policies and decisions made by the Renton Technical College Board of Trustees have impacted our city and surrounding communities," Benita Horn, the Inclusion and Equity Consultant for the City of Renton, wrote in her nomination letter. "RTC’s policies have resulted not only in the admission but in scholarships and ongoing support to those most marginalized and underserved in our community. The impact of these policies is visible in the diversity of the student body and in the success of students most underserved."
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities commended the college on its "success in hiring, retaining, and promoting faculty and staff who represent the diversity of the community by infusing equity requirements throughout the recruiting process" during the 2021 comprehensive evaluation and reaccreditation. The number of underrepresented and underserved tenure candidates, has grown from 32 percent in 2017 to 62 percent in 2021, believed to be the highest in the state. College leadership has become more reflective of our student body with the hiring of people from underrepresented or unserved populations in key positions formerly held by white or gender "traditional" individuals.
RTC's established student-centered equity work resulted in an unsolicited $5 million gift from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, which recognized RTC as an "equity-oriented, high-impact organization" that successfully educates students who come from chronically underserved communities.
While grateful for the recognition, Board Member Frieda Takamura said the Board's work is guided by service to the students.
"By building on the assets of our diverse college and the Renton community, we are actualizing the 'walking the talk' of infusing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of RTC," she said. Huma Mohibullah, a tenured instructor of social sciences and chair of RTC's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, also nominated the Board for the award.
"Through the Board's leadership, RTC has become a college that goes beyond idealized conversations about DEI and achieves the goal of helping underrepresented students thrive in a system that was never built for them," she wrote.