New CDI Director is a familiar face

Dr. Kyra Shahid brings extensive campus involvement to her new position

Newswire photo by Jeff Richardson | Dr. Kyra Shahid was named the newest Director for the Center and Diversity and Inclusion earlier this month. Her other roles on campus include teaching a course she developed and working with different student groups.

To say that Dr. Kyra Shahid has been an active member of the Xavier community  would be an understatement. Her involvement throughout her time on campus has included working with student groups, creating and teaching her own class, advising students and even leading a study abroad program to West Africa.

Now, a new challenge awaits her: serving as the Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI).

Shahid replaces Dr. Taj Smith, who left Xavier on Jan. 25 to pursue a position at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She had previously served as the CDI’s associate director before being named director earlier this month.

Though Shahid officially began working at Xavier in the fall of 2015, her first time on campus came earlier for a seminar followed by a practicum study on the Jesuit experience and tradition. After spending a year at Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland, she returned to Cincinnati for the chance to work at Xavier.

“I felt that this was a space I was called to and compelled to,” Shahid said. 

Since coming to campus, she said she has taken it upon herself to build a more inclusive environment at Xavier. Describing herself as “a scholar practitioner and an intellectual activist,” she said she engages in research for her discipline through her work on campus.

“This is a place where your heart can work out loud,” she said. “Xavier has been this space of family where I can really do this work out loud, and I am grateful for that.” 

For example, Shahid was a member of the Working Group on Xavier’s Connection with Slavery, which Father Michael Graham, president, charged with looking into how the university could work toward racial reconciliation. The group included students, faculty and staff members. 

As part of the Working Group’s response to bias-related incidents on campus, she developed a class entitled “Anti-Black Racism and Epistemic Violence.” The class acted as an extension of her own thesis work examining the intersection of race and spirituality in higher education.

The course provides students with the opportunity to explore systemic oppression on both the societal and personal levels as well as understand how to promote social justice through intellectual activism. Last year, Shahid published a book describing the research and her experience teaching this course.

Recent graduate and current CDI employee Adrian Parker was the teaching assistant for Shahid’s class in the spring of 2018. He said the course was “by far the best class I have taken at Xavier and the most impactful.” 

Beyond Xavier’s campus, last summer Shahid, Parker and four other Xavier students and alumni traveled to Senegal in West Africa, serving as the first Django Praxis cohort to complete the Diasporic Soul Racial Healing Experience. In addition to the study abroad experience, the cohort compiled a book of their collective experiences, which is currently for sale online.

A second cohort of 12 students is currently planning to make the same excursion this coming summer. 

In terms of working specifically with students, as the CDI’s associate director, Shahid was involved with numerous student organizations, including the Black Student Association, the African Student Association and the Student Organization for Latinos, to name a few.

Outside of the CDI, she also acts as a thesis adviser for philosophy, theology and Philosophy, Politics and the Public students.

“I do this work for and with students,” she said.

Parker echoed Shahid’s statement and said she never does anything without student input. She chooses purpose over payment, he added. 

“Her work is all about aligning with what she believes,” Parker said.

As the new Director of the CDI, Shahid hopes to continue to further her own research as well as build on the work of students, faculty and staff.

“My vision for the CDI includes three things: that we deepen, strengthen and broaden the great work that has been happening for the past year,” Shahid said. “Xavier prides itself on cura personalis, to take care of the whole person. My goal is that my office demonstrates that in a way which is genuine and congruent with our mission.”

Shahid concluded by saying she draws inspiration from the Xavier community and her 6-year-old daughter, whom she described as her rock.

“I love Xavier because the people here are genuine, because it is a space where we have remarkable students and because it is in a city and a space that at this time in history compels me to do the work that I do,” she said.

The CDI is located on the second floor of Gallagher Student Center and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 

By: Alex Budzynski | Staff Writer