Dr. Jimmy McCarty has been selected as the new director of the UW Tacoma’s Center for Equity and Inclusion. McCarty joins UWT after having worked at Seattle University as the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Minister of Justice and as an adjunct professor teaching courses in theology, ethics, peace and justice studies, and leadership.
McCarty was born in Korea, but grew up in the south side of Tacoma. As a first-generation college student, he originally did not plan to attend college — as it was something he did not envision for his life. After graduating from high school, McCarty worked in the Bremerton Naval Shipyards as a painter and sandblaster on submarines. Following a series of events that McCarty says changed his perspective and led him to decide that he wanted to go to college, he attended Pepperdine University — a private institution in southern California — and earned his Bachelor of Arts in religion. While McCarty recalls his college experience as being challenging, he views it as an experience that allowed him to grow.
“I actually think at the end of the day it was a great blessing and learning experience for me,” McCarty said. “My first semester was really hard because I hard to learn how to be a college student and I had to learn how to adjust to a new cultural context. Eventually, I figured it out and I really thrived in school which was something I didn’t expect.”
Afterwards, McCarty attended graduate school and earned his masters at the Claremont School of Theology and his Ph.D. in ethics and society from Emory University. After moving back to the Puget Sound area, he was hired at Seattle University and served as the Social Justice Minister and later the Director of Multicultural affairs. Some of McCarty’s accomplishments in his past roles include starting and creating programs and initiatives in partnership with other organizations.
“A lot of the stuff I’m proud of is actually stuff I’ve done in collaboration with others,” McCarty said. “…The things that I think about are partnerships that have gone really well. An example of that would be in this last year, at Seattle University I was able to launch a food security initiative. The way we were able to build that at Seattle U [was] in collaboration with colleagues in student affairs as well as with our food service provider on campus [and] local non-profit institutions. We were able to do more than just a pantry, [and] were able to provide gift cards [and] dining services on campus.”
As a part of this collaborative effort, McCarty was able to implement a program that allowed students to donate points at the end of every quarter to fund gift cards for students experiencing food troubles. Additionally, a food pantry was launched where, similar to the UWT pantry, students could take food home to prepare.
McCarty also collaborated with faculty in the Matteo Ricci institute at Seattle U to help revise their curriculum to be more inclusive and equitable for all students. McCarty then collaborated with a jesuit university in Nicaragua to send Seattle U students to the country for a liberation theology immersion, where students stayed with families during holy week. Later, McCarty had the Nicaraguan students also visit Seattle to complete a similar immersion. He was only able to start this project as he had accepted the CEI director position at UWT. However, McCarty believes that this in itself is a reason why collaborations are so important in higher education.
“Sometimes we might be a part of a process that is important but we don’t get to finish it or we don’t get to hold every piece of it,” he said. “It really has to be done in collaboration.”
As the new director of the CEI, McCarty hopes to spend the coming months learning more about the program and the campus, and also has several goals he wishes to carry out and continue. This includes making the CEI a hub for the UWT campus and a space that students, staff, faculty and members of the greater Tacoma community can participate and feel welcome in.
McCarty also wants to center the CEI’s work to specifically focus on being equitable and just for all our community members, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of UWT students while also striving to help them be successful. Another goal he has is to launch the new physical space of the center, a project that is currently in its early stages of transitioning
“My goal would to be to put us in position where we are fully staffed in a better space able to do the work we always said we do, and … hopefully do it in more robust, affordable and sustainable ways,” McCarty said.
Additionally, McCarty hopes to get to know and build relationships with students, staff and faculty, and encourages students to take advantage of their educational opportunities because it can be a life changing experience as it was for him. He also encourages students to stop by his office or the space at any time.
“The CEI is here for you and we are a resource for you,” McCarty said. “Do not be afraid to reach out.”