Community educator named diversity lead at Ivy Tech Kokomo

Last Updated on June 1, 2022 by Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area

DeAndra Beard

KOKOMO, Ind. — Kokomo community educator DeAndra Beard considers herself an optimist, and she’s bringing that optimism to her new role as director of diversity, equity and belonging at Ivy Tech Community College’s Kokomo Service Area.

“You can’t be in this line of work and not be an optimist,” Beard says. “You have to believe things can get better. You have to believe that if we keep working, if we keep trying, it’s going to get better.”

That optimism has carried Beard into her new job, a job that continues a career dedicated to community and coalition building. At Ivy Tech Kokomo, her mission is to provide the needed planning, structure, leadership and direction for the implementation of a campus-wide diversity program. In her mind, it’s the logical next step in a career journey that includes teaching Spanish for 6th– to 8th-graders in the Kokomo School Corporation for six years and serving as a bilingual admissions counselor at Indiana University Kokomo. She ran the Beyond Borders Language Learning Center, Beyond Barcodes Bookstore, and Bind Café with international and multiracial programming in downtown Kokomo for six years and recently reopened the bookstore in a multicultural section of Indianapolis.

In stating her philosophy, she has written, “I am a lifelong educator who is driven by the deep desire to connect community with the common threads that bind us in order to become the community we want to be.”

Beard grew up in Kokomo and graduated from Kokomo High School. She earned bachelor degrees in elementary education and Spanish from Bethune-Cookman University and is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese. Beard has traveled extensively throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the continent of Africa. She served as a fellow with the Institute for International Public Policy through United Negro College Fund Special Programs and participated in the Senior Applied Research Program sponsored by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development.

Her career highlights include winning the EDGE Award for a successful emerging business presented by the Small Business Administration, being named to the 40 Under 40 award list by the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, receiving the Entrepreneur Award from the NAACP, and being awarded a fellowship with the Diversity in Leadership Program at Marian University in Indianapolis.

Beard says her new role includes two distinct sides of the education equation – the faculty and staff and the students.

“I will be working through Human Relations at Ivy Tech Kokomo, focusing on hiring a diverse faculty and staff so that when students go into the classroom they have the opportunity to see someone who looks like them, someone who understands their culture,” she said. “In this position, I’ll be working to empower faculty and staff to dive deeper into what it means to have a diverse educational community, what it means to provide equitable services, and what it means to create a culture of belonging in an institution.”

She continued, “In terms of students, how do we connect with them to make sure that they know this is a space where they belong, regardless of their background or where they’ve come from? We want all students to know they have access to quality education right here in their community.”

Self-described as “passionate about education, passionate that everyone has equitable access to education,” Beard said she felt the new job was made for her.

“I will be scheduling ‘culture chats’ to expand understanding in students, faculty and staff. I’ll be reengaging the diversity plan for the campus and will be involved in Ivy Tech Kokomo’s annual Doing the Dream school and community events honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said. “My commitment to community building is the foundation of all the work I’ve done. I’ve used food and coffee, language learning, events, books … Underneath all of that is community and coalition building.”

SOURCE: News release from Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area