Highline College

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

VP finalist finds passion for equity through teaching and literature

Dr. Vik Bahl

Dr. Vik Bahl is one of three finalists for the VP of equity, diversity and inclusion position at Highline.

Izzy AndersonStaff Reporter April 28

One vice president of equity, diversity and inclusion finalist says that studying and learning about different communities and representations, brought him to where he is today.

Dr. Vik Bahl is just one of three candidates vying for the new VP position at Highline.

Dr. Bahl currently works as a tenured faculty member in the English division at Green River College, where he has been since 1998.

He helped co-found the Green River Diversity and Equity Council, and the Diversity and Equity in Hiring and Professional Development.

Dr. Bahl received his doctorate’s in English from the University of Texas.

Though he was expected to go into a science field, Dr. Bahl ultimately found English and literature calling him, he said.

“I actually started out as a math and physics major. I was supposed to, according to my family, to go into these very respectable fields. Medicine or science, … mathematics,” he said. “I then discovered literature, that was the turning point. … that opened a world for me of the richness of human imagination, human creativity, human expression, representation. I was hearing the voices of different communities, or different historical eras.”

“I found through literature, an opportunity to see myself represented, … to study not just my own people, but other communities,” Dr. Bahl said.

From there, Dr. Bahl said that it was a short jump to teaching English in higher education.

“This all took me into a career in higher education because I found a never-ending richness of ideas, knowledge, of seeing knowledge not as something that was static,” he said. “But knowledge is something ever-evolving.”

Through literature, he was able to better see representations across the world, Dr. Bahl said.

And a core piece of modern representation and diversity, is community colleges, he said.

“Community colleges represent access to higher education for first-generation students, underrepresented students, students of colors, for students with other barriers,” Dr. Bahl said. “We represent the right of people to get higher education.”

Highline’s representation through many programs such as UMOJA, AANAPISI and PUENTE is why Dr. Bahl would like to join the Highline community, he said.

“I want to be at a college that has this committed, and I want to be at a college … [that will] take it to that level of being the leader in equity education, throughout the state and beyond,” Dr. Bahl said.

“Highline College has numerous programs to support you. … And yet, there is a difference between offering services, and institutional transformation,” he said.

If he gets the position, Dr. Bahl said that he hopes to boost up programs that support diversity, equity and inclusion, to help make a real change.

“A long-term goal, is really about not just institutional change at Highline, but system-wide change - and I believe Highline can be a leader,” he said. “What I hope to accomplish is to support the people who have been doing this work, to feel that their efforts are having a greater institutional impact, that they're not being relegated to just a small program [or] a small amount of funding.”

Another important element that Dr. Bahl brings to the table, is his history and experience in teaching and knowing students one-on-one, he said.

“There's no one right way to do EDI [equity, diversity and inclusion] work, it’s too vast,” he said. “I will not say my piece of the puzzle is more important. But I do think that instruction is crucial, because the majority of any students time is spent with faculty in the classroom.”

Encouraging students through teaching and education can give them the tools needed for success, Dr. Bahl said.

“It really is all about empowering students to see themselves as writers, as researchers, as knowledge producers,” he said. “I think that students have also felt that I am truly interested in their voice, their growth. I’m taking them seriously as intellectuals, and I'm asking them to take themselves seriously as intellectuals.”

Being a student also doesn’t change after you leave college, he said.

“Just as you all are students … similarly staff, faculty, administration, we are also learners. We all have to keep learning about each other's histories, about the social forces that exclude some and give privilege to others,” Dr. Bahl said. “The job of a VP of EDI is to look at these issues, to see who is doing the great work on campus, how to support that work … and how to [continue] that momentum for the sake of institutional transformation.”