As part of Diversity and Inclusion’s move to the Provost’s Office, 2019 alumna N’ninah Freelon joined the team Jan. 2 as coordinator of diversity and inclusion.
Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Justin Mallett said the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has always had two coordinators, so as soon as he was hired as associate provost, the search began for a second coordinator.
Of the four candidates considered, Mallett said Freelon’s knowledge of campus and her ability to build relationships with students made her stand out.
Just 20 days before being hired, Freelon crossed the commencement stage and received her bachelor’s degree in human services.
During her four and a half years as a student at Northwest, Freelon worked in the Student Engagement Center, the Office of Student Involvement and as a student ambassador. She was a member of SISTAH, National Panhellenic Council and served as president of the Nu Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was also a member of the 2019 homecoming court.
Before becoming involved in student organizations, Freelon said she felt on the outskirts of the University. She said it didn’t feel like the place for her until she put herself out there to meet people and see Northwest for what it is outside the classes.
“I was able to see the gap that students that are underrepresented face and the fact that it really is hard to navigate through resources and navigate themselves at a predominantly white institution, but I did it,” Freelon said. “I had to work to do it, but I did it, and I want to work to bridge that gap for everybody.”
With the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace Brunch being a staple event of Diversity and Inclusion, Freelon said right away she threw herself into the planning of the brunch and MLK week events. With those events concluding Jan. 23, she moved on to planning movie showings and discussions for Black History Month.
Mallett said Freelon’s responsibilities don’t differ heavily from those of fellow coordinator Adam Gonzales’, but they focus on different areas. Both are responsible for developing programming, working closely with students and recruiting underrepresented students — especially in the Kansas City, Missouri, area.
As familiar as she is with the University and its culture, Freelon said the transition from full-time student to full-time University employee has been challenging, especially disconnecting herself from student organizations she is no longer a part of.
“It’s definitely different seeing things from the lens of a professional, but in the same sentence, it’s still Northwest, and it still feels like home,” Freelon said. “I’ve also had a lot of personal transitions I’ve had to make which have been difficult, but it’s not any different from the transitions I had to make leaving home and coming here.”
With Freelon being a freshman when the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion first formed in 2016, she watched it go through a myriad of changes throughout her time as a student, but what has changed most is her perspective.
“When I was a student, I would say the view of the office, it seemed like it was geared toward a certain group of students, but I think since I’ve been on the professional side … I was able to realize yes, we celebrate diversity and certain groups on campus, but another part of our office is in inclusion and making sure that every student feels included,” Freelon said.
Although she doesn’t have a concrete idea of how long she plans to stay in her position, Freelon said during her time here, she wants to find a niche to study and train in thoroughly in order to improve her work with the student body.
She also emphasized her desire to be the bridge between underrepresented students and success that she wished she had when she was a freshman.
While not yet ready to move on from Northwest, Freelon’s dream is to get a doctorate in child psychology and work with children who have suffered trauma and abuse, whether in school counseling, through private practice or a daycare.
Freelon has a large, blended family and is the oldest of her biological siblings. Because of her family, she said she has always wanted to work with children, but it wasn’t until her teen years that she developed a passion for victims of trauma and abuse.
“The trauma and abuse part came later, when I kind of reflected on myself and some things that I’ve been through, some things that people around me had been through,” Freelon said. “And being able to understand the fact that you can go through these things as a child and still be something or somebody, I think so many people get discouraged by their childhoods or their past.”
Freelon said throughout the hiring process, there were moments she felt scared or unqualified, but she said she was put in her position for a reason, and she plans to take full advantage of the rest of her time at Northwest to make the world better.