Mason Lighting the Way
Spotlights from the Task Force
More than 100 faculty, staff and students are working on George Mason University’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, which is taking a hard look at the current state of diversity and inclusivity efforts at the university and making recommendations for the future.
These individuals come from across our campuses and bring their different skill sets and expertise to this work. In this series, we will spotlight members of the task force and find out what drives them.
Associate Director, LGBTQ+ Resources
Task Force Committee: University Policies and Practices
Josh Kinchen uses the pronouns he/him, and he wants you to know that. He was co-chair of the team that revamped George Mason University’s Chosen Name and Pronouns Policy and worked to add “gender expression” to the nondiscrimination policy.
As associate director of the LGBTQ+ Resources in the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment (CCEE), formerly ODIME, Kinchen advises student groups, sits on many committees and does a lot of consulting and training with schools, colleges, and departments across the university that want to learn more about working with LGBTQ+ students.
“Some of that work looks like training; some looks like conversation,” said Kinchen who serves in leadership roles in the national association ACPA-College Student Educators International. “It's more helping people connect the dots.”
It is work that Kinchen feels called to do.
Kinchen enlisted in U.S. Marine Corps after high school and was at boot camp when 9/11 happened. After his service, he worked some hospitality jobs before ending up at a community college in North Carolina where he was working while taking classes. He found he really loved higher education.
“I had an advisor who said, ‘You should think about working with students for a living.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that!’” he said.
In the years between that “aha” moment and Mason, he earned a BA in communication studies and an MEd in higher education administration from University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where he also held a graduate assistant position working with LGBTQ+ students. Before coming to Mason in February 2018, he was working at Florida State as the program coordinator for student governance and advocacy.
Kinchen said he was excited to be working on the Policies and Practices committee because this work directly impacts the students and communities he and his CCEE colleagues interact with on a daily basis.
“This is the ecosystem that I work in,” he said. “There are some places that you when say ‘diversity and inclusion,’ the only aspect that comes out is race and ethnicity, which of course is incredibly important. [LGBTQ+ work] is intersectional with every other identity. So having someone who brings LGBTQ+ work into that conversation elevates the whole process.”
For Kinchen, the task force is about coalition building and helping his colleagues understand the nuances of identity and how things might affect people in different ways.
“I think the folks that do diversity inclusion work, none of us would consider ourselves experts because there's always more to know,” he said. “Having more people at the table with different perspectives and understandings makes the work richer, more dynamic and just better in general.”
“It behooves all of us to understand who our students are, to know what they need. We have to understand the complexity of the world for us to be able to do our work. Every social movement in the past 50 years has started on a college campus. Students can lead the way because they are intuitively understanding what the next thing is—and we get to be a part of that process.”