Austin Beierman ‘18
By Victoria Schultz
Austin Beierman, class of 2018, Reike Scholar, and newly appointed Director of Accessibility and Accommodations, continues to live the Diversity Center’s mission of care and equity.
As a high school junior, Austin joined a PLU volleyball camp sponsored by College Bound, a non-profit that helped with college access programming. Austin explained that he and his friends would eat in the UC and then play cards in the Diversity Center. “It’d be really easy for staff members to ask campus safety to make it swipe card access only in the summer and say like, ‘oh, we don’t really want high school students hanging out here.’ But instead they welcomed us.”
His connection with the Diversity Center only flourished from there. The Diversity Center was a place for Austin to be himself and hang out, talking to people, playing games, or watching TV. But the Diversity Center also allowed him to find his identity. “I think it really helped me think about and come to terms with, what does it mean to be a young white guy who grew up without a lot of money.”
One of the most influential parts of the Diversity Center for Austin was being a Rieke scholar, which is a PLU scholarship for first generation college students who are passionate about Diversity, Justice and Sustainability. While he enjoyed the monthly training and the office hours, the stackable scholarship made a huge difference. The financial component helped him pay for textbooks and supplies.
When asked about the changes he has seen on campus, Austin describes the rise in student action groups on campus. The Collective, a group of Diversity Center students, went to the sitting president and expressed a need for bias training, a culturally competent staff, and hiring staff and faculty of color. “The Collective as a student group and organization has built out these demands for institutional justice, and we can follow these [demands] to honor them on campus.”
As an alum Austin is still involved with PLU and the Diversity Center. Since graduating, he worked as an advisor in the Center for Student Success, and now works in the Dean of Students Office as the Director of Accessibility and Accommodations. Through his time in the Diversity Center, he became comfortable talking about diversity and challenging inequality on campus, which he uses in his job today. “When I’m looking through data in my job, I don’t get nervous about the idea of pulling the report and disaggregating for race.”
Looking to the future, Austin continues to hope the Diversity Center will be a place for students to cultivate relationships and find support, not just academically but also in life. He also expresses a desire to see more scholarship opportunities arise for students involved in the Diversity Center. Knowing how much the Reike Scholarship helped him, Austin hopes future students can have the same opportunities.