New DE&I Director hopes to foster community across campus

Kristin Johnston was named UDM's first director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion last year.

Kristin Johnston, Detroit Mercy’s first director of the newly-created Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, says she plans to use her role to foster community and inclusivity among everyone on campus.

“I want everyone to know they belong here and that their work is important,” she said.

Johnston, who began her job on Aug. 1, said she aims to connect students, faculty and administration in ways that transcend the walls of a classroom and the boundaries of official campus titles.

The ODEI was established to strengthen the UDM community and enhance its already existing culture. About 19 percent of the study body identifies as a minority, while 59 percent are women, according to the university.

Johnston says her mission is to raise voices and encourage kinship to enhance everyone’s existing identity, which will add to the overall campus culture. The ODEI recognizes both the individuality of every Titan and the unifying similarities that come with being human, she said.

Before her current role, Johnston was an advisor for Student Disability Services then in the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement, according to her university biography. She also previously ran a bridal shop in Detroit before the coronavirus pandemic forced its closure.

Johnston’s passion for her work comes from her time in college both as an undergraduate at Kent State University and graduate student at Wayne State University. She says that her overall collegiate experience emphasized the power of one’s voice and their story.

She says that the mission of DEI work is to amplify that power and make it known. This mission, while officially assigned to her office, is the “work of the whole community.”

She said that the University of Detroit Mercy has a community that is eager to do and contribute to the work of ODEI. This community, Johnston says, has been working for the goals of DEI long before her arrival.

Looking forward, Johnston and ODEI hope to collaborate with other Detroit Mercy diversity leaders to better the overall campus culture by ensuring that individuals’ voices and stories are not only heard but shared and appreciated.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” she said. “I don’t know all the reasons that people show up to Detroit Mercy in their many capacities, but we each were brought here for a reason. My call to action is to bloom here.”