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Dr. Erin Kline on Leading SMSU's DEIB Efforts

Published Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Dr. Erin Kline '02
Dr. Erin Kline '02

Last July, Dr. Erin Kline '02 assumed the role of Assistant Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Campus Diversity Officer. She had previously served as the Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion, the Associate Director of the Mustang Pathway Program, and adjunct taught in sociology.

She grew up in Marshall and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at SMSU in 2002. She moved away for a number of years to pursue a Master of Arts in Sociology and Social Movements at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a PhD in Sociology specializing in Race, Class, and Gender Intersections at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

She sees her new role as an extension of the University’s mission to be a student-centered and inclusive environment. She appreciates every opportunity to connect with people, learn their stories, find what they have in common, discover what they value, understand their differences, and genuinely support one another in the individual goals that they have.

“At SMSU, we aim to provide innovative learning experiences and foster civic engagement to help create well-rounded and broadly educated leaders who embrace and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workspaces,” said Kline. “At the same time, the demographics of our nation are changing, the needs of our employees are changing, and the expectations of our students are changing. It demands that we are very intentional in everything we do.”

“We have to be comfortable with difficult conversations and to support each other through the learning processes people are willing to experience in order to make our university a welcoming place,” she said. “For many years, SMSU has worked to be very student-centered, that work lends itself to an important aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“When we talk about diversity, we are valuing different perspectives and experiences that everyone brings with them onto our campus and into the classroom. When we talk about equity, we recognize that not everyone starts from the same space or place and that we seek to provide resources and opportunities to meet people where they are on their journey into higher education,” Kline explained. “Inclusion efforts mean we value different ideas and work to see them reflected in practices and policies, in how we hold meetings, and in how we interact with each other.”

“There’s a newer aspect of the conversation, that is one of belonging. You may hear more references to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging [DEIB],” explained Kline. “And this is the part that really gets me energized, working to foster a sense of belonging, seeing yourself reflected in the place that you are. Every human being seeks to be a part of a community and have a sense of belonging within the community. This may be the most important part of the work that I’ll be doing on campus.”

“I feel like my entire life has been leading me to this time and place right now,” said Kline. “I’ve studied all aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and focus on fostering a sense of community and belonging. I really attempt to align the values that I speak about with the actions that I demonstrate.”

Dr. Kline envisions the work as a marathon, not a sprint. To help her focus on her purpose, she keeps five pictures on the wall of her office. She says they serve to, “remind me of the shoulders that I stand upon” as well as to reinforce the privilege, responsibility, and terrific challenge that comes with the relational work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

“They remind me to always be humble, and know where the ‘levers’ are and how to pull them (Ruth Bader Ginsburg); to be accountable for my actions and to ‘be a model for others’ (Rosa Parks); that change happens in relationships with others through perspective-taking as ‘walls turned sideways are bridges’ (Angela Davis); that nothing is so strong as our willingness to see each other with dignity and humanity because ‘love wins’ (Maya Angelou); and to be brave enough to step into the arena ‘for there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it’ (Amanda Gorman),” explained Kline. “I look forward to working with everyone connected to SMSU—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends— to foster a true sense of belonging at SMSU.”

Dr. Kline lives in Marshall with her husband, Nick Kline, a social studies teacher with Marshall Area Technical & Education Center (MATEC), and their three children. She and her family enjoy traveling to the many Minnesota state parks during all seasons of the year. They enjoy cross-country road trips and plan to take their next one to the Redwood Forest. Dr. Kline also has a passion for the arts and is an active board member of the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC) as well as an accomplished pianist. In her downtime, she enjoys reading, writing, walking while listening to podcasts, as well as her family’s movie and game nights.
To learn more about Southwest Minnesota State University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources, visit:

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