BC has added a new department


Javier Valdes

Director of Equity and Inclusion Odella Johnson

Carl E. Littleberry Jr., Reporter


Graduating and transferring are the common goals of Bakersfield College students. Since 2012, BC has averaged nearly 1,000 graduating students annually. Of those students, minorities made up only 23 percent of that number.

In an attempt to improve these numbers, BC has created a new department named Equity and Inclusion located in A-17 in the Administration Building. That department’s responsibility is helping minority students navigate their college and personal lives. To lead this new department, BC hired Odella Johnson, 64, and Henry Covarrubias, 43, to work under Vice President of Student Affairs Zav Dadabhoy.

Johnson will be the director of the department overseeing its daily activities with the help of Covarrubias, who will serve as its interim program manager. The department will focus on the existing problems that minority students face at BC, creating a more personal connection with the students.

“We focus a lot of time with our students building relationships…focusing on a caring environment where students feel valued and included,” Johnson said.

Using a three-year plan, Johnson hopes to give the students more equitable opportunities.

Covarrubias enthusiastically said, “We have a plan, and it’s up to us not just the students. We need to make ourselves more personable to reach the ones falling through the cracks.”

The plan is to connect students with better options early on in school to ease the transition to higher education.

The department has many facets, such as personal one-on-one counselor like Jo Acosta who is a full-time educational advisor at BC. Acosta works with students to complete a S.E.P. (Supplementary Educational Plan) as well a follow-up plan to keep students involved in the program.

“Trying to connect earlier with students to build a foundation for success in college is key,” Johnson said. Equity and Inclusion will collaborate with other departments, such as Extended Opportunities Programs & Services and Financial Aid.

By creating a task force of former students to use as mentors or tutors, Equity and Inclusion is trying its best to supplement the personal standpoint students wouldn’t usually get in other departments.

With the creation of the new department, Johnson believes minority students will take more of a can-do approach toward higher education.

“Looking at who comes to the school, we can use data to better pinpoint those students who wouldn’t generally get the help they need,” she said. “Usually it’s as easy as just letting a kid know that you are here to help and are willing to listen.”