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Chik named new Stetson Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Cecil Chik emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States with her family at age 3. As an adult, she became the first in her family to attend college and then worked as an activist for LGBTQ+ issues.

Cecil Chik

Cecil Chik started as Director of Diversity and Inclusion in her new office in the Cross Cultural Center on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Chik has “a lot of intersecting identities,” she said, and set out to learn about them while working on her master’s degree in mental health counseling at the University of Central Florida. Along the way, she decided to educate others about diversity and inclusion.

She took over as Stetson University’s new Director of Diversity and Inclusion on Wednesday, Feb. 1, after working as Residential Life Coordinator for the past year.

In her new role, Chik will oversee the Office of Diversity and inclusion and its programs, such as Safe Zone (which supports lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer and other sexual orientations), SU first (which support first generation college students), The Cross Cultural Center (CCC) space, and the Multicultural Student Council. She also will partner with other Stetson departments to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

“In my counseling experience, I worked as a graduate assistant at UCF in their LGBTQ+ Services office and that’s where I developed my passion for social justice work,” said Chik, who married her wife Nicole Chik on Dec. 28. “I never thought about those things, even though I, myself, had a lot of intersecting identities.”

Chik brings a great deal of expertise to her new role and was able to start quickly in the position at a time when the Stetson community has made diversity and inclusion a top priority, said Lua Hancock, Stetson Vice President of Campus Life and Student Success.

Cecil Chik and two Stetson students

Cecil Chik talks with Stetson seniors Salma Belakbir, left, and Ayala Edouard in the Cross Cultural Center.

“Cecil brings a wonderful depth of professional experience in diversity and inclusion work,” Hancock wrote. “Before the new assignment was offered to Cecil, we received feedback from the staff of diversity and inclusion and some students. Overwhelmingly, everyone was excited to have Cecil provide leadership in this area. Her expertise, professionalism, hard work, approachability, and commitment to partnerships are well known by students and staff.”

Chik will serve in the position until the summer of 2018, when she plans to move to California with her wife, a graduate student at UCF who received a scholarship to continue her education there. Chik also would like to receive her doctorate one day, partly out of respect to her parents, who came to America so their children could be well-educated.

In 1989, when Hong Kong was under British rule, her family emigrated to Miami. Chik’s aunt already lived in Miami with her husband and had obtained U.S. citizenship. Under the immigration laws of the time, her aunt could apply for citizenship for her relatives, including her sister, Chik’s mother.

Chik’s parents eventually became naturalized U.S. citizens and, because she and her two sisters were under age 18 at the time, they automatically became citizens, too.

“For educational purposes and educational opportunities, they wanted to move to the United States for me and my sisters,” Chik said. “My parents had limited educations growing up. It was not something they could afford nor was it normal for them in their social-economic class.”

She attended UCF, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and working as a math teacher in Osceola and Orange County schools for four years. She returned to UCF for a master’s degree in mental health counseling and went to work for the Zebra Coalition in Orlando, offering services to LGBTQ+ youth and adults.

She recalled feeling culture-shock when she arrived as a first year student at UCF, with its predominantly white student body. The experiences taught her about the importance of making connections on campus, so students can grow and thrive, instead of feeling isolated, she said.

“With the breakdown and makeup of Stetson students, we are a diverse campus. But the diversity doesn’t come in just racial diversity. We have a lot of social-economic-class diversity. We have a lot of religious diversity,” she said. “And there is a lot of different opportunities for connection in those specific minority groups. The thing that we can do the best to get students connected is to let them know those connections exist.”

Chik joined Stetson as Residential Life Coordinator in October 2015, supervising Resident Assistants and overseeing various student housing. She helped to create and lead the Safe Zone training at Stetson, a program that identifies people who are “committed to increasing their knowledge of, and sensitivity to” LGBTQ+ issues. She also served on the planning committee that is bringing the annual Florida Collegiate Pride Coalition Conference to Stetson on March 31-April 2 to connect the LGBTQ+ community.

She joins a team of professionals including Lindsey Graves, Assistant Director of Interfaith Initiatives; Athena Hale, Coordinator of the Multicultural Student Council Program and Coordinator, AmeriCorps Notre Dame; Haley Acra, SU 1st Generation Peer Mentor Coordinator; Luisa DeGuzman, Coordinator of Bonner Program and Social Justice Education; Kat Thomas, Assistant Director of Student Governance and Organizations; and the rest of the Community Engagement Team.

Her new role comes as Stetson’s Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Task Force is working on recommendations to improve the campus climate and move forward on a university-wide commitment to “be a diverse community of inclusive excellence,” as Stetson President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., said.

That effort made it important to fill the position as soon as possible, according to Hancock.

“With the issues in our world and nation right now as well as our campus preparing to move into the action stages of addressing the campus climate feedback, it was important that the Director role not be vacant at this time,” she wrote.