People of SU / Society / Justice and Law

Inclusivity in Action

Written by Tracy DeCroce

October 13, 2018

Connor Wesley, '14, is creating safer health care settings for the LGBTQ community.

Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko

Connor Wesley, '14, is creating safer health care settings for the LGBTQ community.

University and alumni activate change from the classroom to the boardroom.

Connor Wesley, RN, BSN ’14, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His nursing supervisor at a major Seattle hospital was talking about an emergency room patient under their care. “Are we still trying to find a bed for that person who thinks they’re a woman?” Wesley, a nurse who is himself transgender, immediately emailed a nursing officer to say he didn’t feel he would be safe if he was a patient at his own hospital.

That experience reinforced the path Wesley had taken as a College of Nursing (CON) student—to create safer health care settings for the LGBTQ community. Inspired by Associate Professor Susan Matt, PhD, who encouraged him to lecture in the classroom, Wesley has been educating nurses about his community’s unique needs.

“This is my place to create change in nursing. In a career I love I get to make it better. I get to make it safer for the community. I get to make nurses grow. And I get to do it all while being my authentic self.”

“And I get to do it all while being my authentic self,” says Wesley, whose appearance in March 2018 on KING-5 TV’s daytime talk show New Day Northwest marked a decision to be fully out with his transgender identity.

As Seattle University alumni like Wesley challenge injustice at work and in the world, the university continues to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment within the context of its Jesuit Catholic mission and commitment to inclusive academic excellence.

On campus, efforts involving faculty, staff, students and administrators have begun addressing individual biases while working toward dismantling and correcting systemic wrongs within curriculum and institutional programming.

In the College of Arts and Sciences, SU’s largest college, Dean David Powers, PhD, is working with faculty experts to create a culture that addresses “intersectional” challenges, acknowledging interrelated issues of racism, sexism, income disparity and ageism. The college held a training last December called “Undoing Institutional Racism” for 35 faculty, staff and students. Powers describes it as “one of the biggest shifts to understanding everyone equitably” in his 21 years in higher education. He plans more trainings and says the college has also adjusted its hiring practices with help from an outside consultant to be more inclusive.

Similar dialogue is happening in the Seattle U “Ignatian Leadership and Race” class, which grew out of the Catholic Heritage Lecture Series. Taught by faculty and staff from different disciplines, the class explores topics such as Muslims who experience racialization in the U.S. As one student wrote in the course evaluation, “The class forced me to step out of my comfort zone.”

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE), which annually engages 3,000 SU students in service work and collaborates with dozens of community partners, is “striving to live and lead as an anti-racist organization,” according to its website. Director Kent Koth says, “It was something we had to do” to create stronger and more trusting partnerships with local schools, families, youth and organizations in the surrounding racially and culturally diverse neighborhood.