DEI Spotlight: February 2021
February 24, 2021
The Office of Equality and Diversity proudly presents this month's DEI Spotlight, a recurring feature in which we recognize different individuals and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committees across campus for their work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Drexel. In this final week of Black History Month, we are spotlighting: Dr. Tasha Gardner, Director of the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship; Allen Riddick, Director of Supplier Inclusion for Procurement Services and Vice President of Drexel’s Black Faculty and Professional Staff Association (BFPSA); and Ahaji Schreffler, Director of Programs for the Office of Global Engagement and President of BFPSA. Our featured colleagues are all part of Drexel's Anti-Racism Task Force and trailblazers in Drexel's DEI efforts, so we could not imagine a more fitting month to celebrate their work. We asked each to share details about their role and accomplishments, as well as what motivates their DEI work.
Dr. Tasha Gardner
My journey with Drexel started in August 1997 when I toured the campus as a rising high school senior. By this time I had toured almost a dozen college campuses, but there was something that felt like home about Drexel. It immediately became my number 1 school. I could not have imagined that over 20 years later Drexel would still be my home.
I’ve been at Drexel professionally for almost 15 years. I got into higher education because I wanted to work with first-generation students like myself and make sure they had more opportunities than I did. There are things I missed out on because I did not think I could or did not realize the consequence of not acting. My parents did what they could, but there was so much they didn’t know about the college prep process. There are definitely things I regret that I don’t want current students to have to experience, like not participating in study abroad and ignoring scholarship opportunities.
I have created and worked on some pivotal projects. I have been fortunate that they all have personal meaning to me and align with my reason for being in education. In 2012 I partnered with Dr. Brian Ellis in the College of Business to write a proposal that created the LeBow BRIDGE Program. As a Black woman and LeBow alum, this proposal was important to me because I not only wanted to give back but wanted to make sure other business students, especially students of color, were connected as a community and prepared for the business world. I partnered with colleagues Lindsay Matias in the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS) and Dr. Meredith Wooten to create First Forward, Drexel’s First-Generation Program. After holding focus groups we realized that there needed to be a space where all students, faculty, staff, and even alumni who are first-generation can come together and share their stories. In 2019 I became the founding director of the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship. Based on the programs I brought with me from CLASS, including Dragon Navigators, Act 101, and the summer program, plus a few additional programs that would join the center, our primary audience became students of color, first-generation students and students from underserved areas. The center was founded on the premise that we support the life cycle of a student.
My grandparents had a saying: “Whatever you want to be, be the best.” For me that means making sure that young people who look like me have someone to look up to. I want young students of color to find their voice and live their passion.
As the Director of Supplier Inclusion, my role is to work alongside Drexel’s Strategic Sourcing Team to assist our University in including local and diverse businesses within RFP’s and purchasing opportunities. I joined Drexel in 2018 and work alongside a team that is truly dedicated to inclusion. I also am currently the Vice President of Drexel’s Black Faculty & Professional Staff Association (BFPSA). At BFPSA we work to enhance the experience of faculty, professional staff and students at Drexel by focusing on education, mentoring, community involvement and networking.
I like to consider myself a Connector Of Good People. I really enjoy meeting diverse businesses and connecting them with Drexel. All of the businesses that I meet really appreciate that our University works to ensure equal and open opportunity. What motivates me most is knowing that we are making Drexel a better and stronger University by promoting a diverse supplier base.
Most recently, I had the honor of serving as Co-Chair on Drexel’s Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) with a committee of leaders focused on Drexel’s Business Practices. We took a hard look into how we operate as a University and made recommendations to our leadership regarding improving how Drexel engages in business.
I believe that the beauty of our country and our world is in its diversity. I first realized this when I left the US for the first time to co-op in Paris as a high-need, first-generation Drexel undergrad. This experience changed the trajectory of my life, career and service. Over the past 17 years at Drexel, I have shaped the evolution of education abroad, helping expand Drexel’s portfolio from just a handful to over 100 programs across the globe. The essence of my work as Director of Programs in the Office of Global Engagement is to make the world a smaller place by building international bridges for students to expand their understanding and respect for other ways of learning, living and perceiving the world. The most fulfilling aspect of my work has been touching the lives of thousands of students and hundreds of faculty on their international journey. I find great joy especially in mentoring underrepresented students who, just like me, have never traveled abroad before. Witnessing their transformation into global citizens gives me a continued passion for the power of international experiences.
Beyond crossing international boundaries, building bridges has been a guiding principle in my efforts to foster inclusive and diverse community here on campus as well. In 2012, I founded the Drexel Meditation Group (DMG), a weekly gathering that I facilitate for people to cultivate mindfulness and compassion together. Hundreds of staff, faculty and students have connected in mindfulness through DMG’s regular sessions and quarterly workshops, which are sponsored by Human Resources’ Healthier U Wellness program. Since 2012, I have also volunteered on the executive board of Drexel’s Black Faculty and Professional Staff Association (now as President), organizing events that strengthen connections among Drexel’s Black community. Most recently, I have served as one of the two Co-Administrators for the university’s Anti-Racism Task Force, providing support to the co-chairs and subcommittees as they undertook this huge and important charge.
In addition to my contributions at Drexel, I offer my service toward equity for those in need. I am the Founder and President of a non-profit dedicated to uplifting the lives of children at Love Orphanage in Haiti through wellness and education. I also volunteer with Heart to Heart, a NJ-based restorative justice organization, both as a Board Director and meditation teacher for women who are incarcerated at Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center.