It was the language in the job listing itself that first told Natalie Mason-Kinsey she might be the perfect fit for California State University, Northridge’s new chief diversity officer.
When Mason-Kinsey, who was then the chief officer for Equal Employment Opportunity for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus Company in New York City, compared CSUN’s posting to notices for similar positions around the country, she found a key difference. While most job descriptions were focused on checking boxes for compliance requirements, CSUN’s listing sounded both aspirational and inspirational — the description spoke of building community alliances and maintaining an intentional and sustained focus on achieving inclusive excellence. CSUN sounded like it had inclusion in its DNA.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s different, I like how they wrote that,’” Mason-Kinsey said.
Mason-Kinsey has a long track record of fostering opportunity and inclusion for everyone, including stints as the chief diversity officer for Brooklyn College and diversity-related roles for City College of New York and Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College.
Mason-Kinsey, who started her new post in May and reports directly to CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, provides big-picture guidance in promoting diversity and inclusion, educational and employment opportunities, and cultural proficiency. She helps lead CSUN’s Commission on Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives, ensuring the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion programs. One of her priorities will be measuring the effectiveness of CSUN’s faculty diversity initiative, including recruitment and retention. She also provides strategic oversight and direction to the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity, which promotes and implements equity and diversity programs and conducts investigations related to discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
“In addition to her extensive qualifications and experience, Natalie brings a vision to help CSUN advance in its goals and commitment to a diverse and inclusive learning environment that elevates all students,” Harrison said. “Fostering an environment of cooperation and collaboration requires the commitment of people and departments across campus, and Natalie is the right person to inspire those efforts so our university can continue to provide a meaningful and impactful education to all students.”
Mason-Kinsey grew up in Seattle and earned a Bachelor of Arts in American ethnic studies from the University of Washington before traveling east to earn a law degree from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. After a couple of summer internships, she realized working in a law firm wasn’t her passion — she wanted to feel like she was helping people solve problems. So, she clerked for the Howard University Office of General Counsel, where she led training for sexual harassment, diversity, and equity and inclusion.
“It’s fulfilling work,” she said. “I’m not going to say everyone’s always happy with me; that’s not how this works. At the end of the day, hopefully most of the time, I feel like I helped people or resolved an issue for them.”
At CSUN, she has joined one of the most diverse universities in the United States. Recognized by the Wall Street Journal for having the second most diverse learning environment in the nation, CSUN’s student body is more than 48 percent Latino, and the university is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). CSUN educates more deaf and hard-of-hearing students than any other U.S. state university.
“CSUN is focused on really making diversity and inclusion part of CSUN life from top to bottom, side to side, and that’s one of the reasons I am excited for this opportunity,” Mason-Kinsey said. “It’ll be a challenge, but one well worth meeting. CSUN has pushed itself and now we’ll focus more on building the community and enhancing what’s already here.”
As CSUN’s culture of inclusion continues to grow, Mason-Kinsey wants to encourage “thought diversity.” This can take many forms, she said, including encouraging professors to incorporate teaching techniques that appeal to students with different learning styles. For example, introverts and extroverts bring different strengths, as do people who grew up in one-parent households compared to two-parent households.
“People don’t always talk about it, but to me, that’s the most important part of diversity,” Mason-Kinsey said. “Race is important because that’s what people see, but nobody is one thing. We’re all a multitude of things. So intersectionality and talking about how we think, and why we think the way we think, are more important to me on the diversity front. Everybody’s life experience makes the way they view the world different, and the more we open that up and allow people to share those views comfortably, I think it will make us all better.”