Three familiar faces depart Xavier

CDI, CFJ Staff seize new professional opportunities this spring semester

by Joseph cotton, campus news editor
Photos courtesy of and Twitter
Dr. Kyra Shahid (left) announced last week that she will be leaving Cincinnati and her role as director of the CDI in March. Accompanying her departure are Rev. Nelson Pierce (center) and Luke Hansen (right), who left their positions in the CFJ during the first week of classes this semester.

Three prominent Xavier administrators — Dr. Kyra Shahid, Rev. Nelson Pierce and Luke Hansen, SJ — have announced that they are leaving Xavier this semester to pursue new opportunities across the country. Shahid, the current director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, will be leaving Xavier on March 1.

She accepted a new position as an instructional consultant and assistant director for the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan (U of M). She will be working on instituting new diversity and inclusion practices for the faculty at U of M’s 19 schools and colleges.

Shadid came to Xavier in 2015 at a time when the CDI — then named the Multicultural, Gender and Women’s Center — was working to rebrand and cater itself to student groups. She was sub- sequently named director in 2018 and continued her work
with student groups under her guidance. One of Shahid’s earliest memories at Xavier was giving a TEDx talk when she
first arrived.

“I look back on that and see how that work gave birth to so many of the other things that we did,” Shahid said. During her time at Xavier, Shahid created the course Anti-Black Racism and Epistemic Violence as a response to a series of bias incidents
that happened in 2016 and the questions that students asked in the aftermath. She also noted the impact of the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) symposium in the fall of 2019.

“(The USS) happened right before a new rupture in our communities in regards to race and racism,” Shahid said. “We were already asking questions about institutional responses (to issues about race and anti-Balck racism). I’m very proud that Xavier was able to make space for those conversations before some of those incidents took place.”

In this bittersweet moment, Shahid reminiscenced on the personal connections she has established with her students. “Honestly, what I’m most proud of during my time at Xavier is the relationships that I’ve built with students,” Shahid said. “Students that have been willing to be vulnerable, students that have poured onto me, students that have babysat my daughter. I feel like I’ve had sacred relationships that go beyond the job.”

Accompanying Shahid’s departure is Luke Hansen, the former Catholic chaplain in the CFJ. Hansen moved to California earlier this month to begin working on a project that explores women in the diaconate. “Right now there are so many barriers for women be- ing in leadership and ministry roles,” Hansen said. “(This project) is just a small part of that.”

Hansen also noted that his project will be educational. “(In the Catholic Church) change happens from both the top and the bottom,” Hansen said. “Some churches do invite women to preach. Suddenly, it makes a huge impact because you can see something as possible.” Hansen admitted that being at a university was something he never expected, but one that has been integral to his faith journey.

Hansen made the most of his time in the CFJ. He cited a Dorothy Day Immersion trip to New York City and the Civil Rights Alternative Breaks trip to Alabama as two defining moments during his tenure at Xavier. “They were both extraordinary experiences,” Hansen said. “Getting to spend a whole week with students and engaging in important issues was one of my best experiences here.”

The CFJ also said goodbye to Rev. Nelson Pierce, who left Xavier last week. He accepted a new position as a community organizer for the progressive political action committee, Democracy for America. This new role will allow him to work closely
on issues of police reform and protecting voting rights.

“I’m a Christian in the Black liberation tradition. It is important for us that we follow God and join in the liberation of the oppressed,” Pierce said when asked how his faith background will continue to guide his work. “Some people do that through direct service. My calling is in politics.” Pierce, who served as the Faith and Race Program director and the first Protestant chaplain in the CFJ, initially came to Xavier to lead the gospel choir.

“I grew up with (gospel music). I went to church right up the street at Southern Baptist Church, and all the kids who attended church were either in the choir or an usher. I chose choir.” He went on to say that Dan Larkin Jr., Xavier alum and current piano player for the Xavier Gospel Choir, was one of the people who helped him develop an appreciation for music and learn to play the piano. Pierce also had a hand in organizing previous Spirit Celebrations, which are among the standout moments of his Xavier experience.

“It’s a wonderful time for the campus to remember what drives the work that we do,” Pierce said. “Seeing various groups from the university come together like that was very powerful.” There are currently no announcements concerning the
new hiring of any staff members in the CDI or CFJ.