King Xiong came to Cal Maritime in February 2020, coming from a background in student affairs working with underrepresented student groups. His main role is to serve as the coordinator of our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) but he also chairs the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council.
Most broadly King, a big part of your job is to make sure that people feel included at Cal Maritime. That applies first to cadets, of course, but extends to the community at large. It’s a tall order, so how do you make that happen?
I think it’s important that approach to equity and inclusion on campus comes from a collective and community-based framework, meaning it’s not just my sole responsibility to be engaged in this work as the DEI Council Chair but really every member of the campus community. It’s crucial to ensure that equity and inclusion is imbedded in every facet of campus life. At the heart of it, if you want to make sure other people feel included, you have to listen to them, whether that’s cadets, staff, or faculty. You have to authentically and intentionally engage with them to learn what their needs are and what their vision is for a more inclusive campus. It’s important to provide the necessary resources, whether that’s professional learning opportunities or a space on campus or funding for events, to ensure that there are actionable steps taken towards creating more equity and inclusion on campus.
Many of the cadets you’re working with may be the first in the family to attend college, or come from traditionally under-represented groups at the Academy. What are some of the things you can do to support them?
One of the most important factors is to ensure that the students feel connected to the campus and that they belong here. Listening to students and providing opportunities for them to have agency is so critical to validating their personal and educational experiences. Additionally, it’s important to be self-reflective and think about how current practices and policies are affecting students who deal with issues such as college affordability, food insecurity, or homelessness. When you reflect on your position and take the opportunity to truly get to know your students, you understand what personal factors and experience they go through that impact their education. The strong relationships are what can help a student feel that authentic support to stay motivated and connected for success.
You are a part of the effort that’s opening a new Inclusion Center on campus? Can you tell is why this important and what you hope to achieve?
The Inclusion Center is a major milestone for our campus because it serves as a space for cadets to build community and access resources for support. It is open to all cadets from different life experiences and backgrounds, but very intentionally supports greater equity and diversity on our campus. At its core, the Center is a dedicated place on campus where students can congregate and be their authentic selves. This is extremely important because it helps our campus grow to become more equity-minded and supportive of students from diverse backgrounds. The Inclusion Center shows that all students are welcome here at Cal Maritime.
Is there anything in your personal experience and background that helps you be effective in your roles and the EOP coordinator and overseeing the DEI Council?
I’m passionate about this work because it’s who I am and where I came from. I’m a Hmong refugee who was born in the Thailand refugee camps and resettled in the U.S. I grew up in a low-income household and community learning English as a Second Language. Leaving home and going away to college was a life-changing experience that I didn’t have the personal guidance on because I was first-generation college student. I was able to succeed because of the mentorship support I had from counselors and academic advisors. When I entered higher education as a professional, my experiences and aspirations centered on supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds who encountered similar challenges. My professional work comes from my personal lived experiences which continues to be my motivation for different leadership roles I take on.
ABOUT CAL MARITIME
Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.