State’s Highest Ranking Equity Officer Visits Eastern

Karen Johnson, PhD, the director of the Washington state Office of Equity, dropped by EWU Tuesday, Oct. 18, to get a first-hand look at how the university is supporting students through its diversity and inclusion efforts. 

Pictured left to right: Freshman Noemi Librado-Sanchez (student employee), Karen Johnson, PhD, Shari Clarke, PhD, Marilyn Dreis (ODEI) and student Jason Ralda (ODEI admin program specialist).  

In addition to meeting with President Shari McMahan, Johnson spent some time in the Center for Inclusive Excellence and met students. She says the center is an essential resource on a college campus. 

“Because every student matters,” says Johnson. “And when you’re home away from home, you need somebody that loves you, cares about you, that’s going to encourage your student academic success, your physical success, and your emotional and mental growth.”   

Johnson has become familiar with Eastern after meeting Vice President for Diversity & Senior Diversity Officer Shari Clarke, Phd, through their work with the state Council of Presidents (COP). She’s impressed with Clarke’s work in the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.  

“She’s always just been powerful, fierce and welcoming. So when she invited me here to see the great work that’s going on at the Center for Inclusive Excellence, I just had to say yes.” 

Karen Johnson and Shari Clarke connected through their work with the state Council of Presidents.

Both Johnson and Clarke talked about the top equity initiative set in motion by Gov. Jay Inslee and how it fits well with the goals of EWU. “PEAR” —or Pro-Equity Anti-Racism — challenges everyone to ask themselves what they’re prepared to do to promote equity.  

“We want everyone in Washington to flourish and achieve their full potential, because everyone belongs here,” adds Johnson.  

The Washington Office of Equity was established by the Washington State Legislature and signed into law in April 2020.  Johnson is the first director, starting in March of that year.  

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