Champions of Diversity: Our Journey to Sam!

Every Bearkat has a story. Sharing our stories builds acceptance, respect and understanding of different experiences and perspectives. SHSU would like to highlight some of our stories. We encourage you and your colleagues to submit the story of your journey to Sam, so we can continue the diversity conversation.

Thieme Jackson Bittick, MA

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With an MA in English, Thieme J. Bittick, AKA “TJ,” started at SHSU as an adjunct faculty in 2005. She moved on to become a dissertation reviewer and now works in Human Resources as the professional development coordinator for the staff. TJ began her career after college as a civilian contract negotiator for the US Air Force, where she purchased multi-million dollar satellite systems (such as the GPS that later made its way onto the civilian market). Through a series of fortunate events, she fell into the learning and development field, which she continues to enjoy.

TJ’s heritage is a mixture of African American, Irish, and Native American. Her parents met while serving in the Air Force when the service was being desegregated, and her mother was a WAF (Women in the Air Force). TJ was born in Germany, but her older siblings were born right here in Texas. The only thing she loves more than her two dogs is her Sam professor husband and their (very nearly) adult twin sons.

Jorge Varela, PhD

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Jorge G. Varela is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Philosophy, and Director of Clinical Training for the Doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. Currently, he teaches doctoral practicum and a doctoral-level course in multicultural psychology, and teaches undergraduate courses in abnormal psychology and psychology and the law. His areas of research include the intersection and multicultural and forensic psychology as well as forensic assessment in general. He served as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force and was the Commander of the Mental Health Flight at Kirtland AFB (Albuquerque, NM) before coming to Sam Houston State.

Jorge was the first member of his family born in the United States. He grew up bilingual in a Cuban neighborhood, and his Cuban heritage is an important part of his identity and life. He loves to share his experiences with students and friends, including his recipe for Cuban Black Beans. He has served on the Faculty Advisory Panel for the SH Elite Program, an academic support program for first generation African-American and Latino male students, since its inception in 2010. Jorge spends his time reading science fiction and fantasy novels, watching college football, and cheering for the San Antonio Spurs. He also believes being a fan of Star Trek and Star Wars are not mutually exclusive. One thing Dr. Varela wants you to know is that he dislikes prejudice in all its forms, exploitation, and, to a lesser extent, blueberries.

David Arriola

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David Arriola is a sixth generation Texan, and a fourth generation soldier. His mother, a school teacher, and his father, a public transportation officer and Army veteran, instilled in him the value of service before self and a passion for helping others. Deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps, David enlisted in the Army as a Petroleum Supply Specialist after high school. After graduating with honors from the US Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee VA, David returned to Texas. He then served six years with the 72nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion while he attended SHSU. Eventually serving as the Battalion Petroleum logistics section leader, David was awarded for the successful coordination of both large-scale training operations, and disaster relief for the State of Texas.

After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, he returned to work at SHSU. David currently works in Institutional Effectiveness as the department's Office Manager. Previously, David worked in Human Resources coordinating on campus student employment. In his spare time, David is working towards his Master’s degree in Comparative and Global Education, with an Emphasis in Higher Education Administration. He also enjoys reading, traveling, touring museums, camping, golfing, and playing with his dog. David is thankful for the opportunities he has been afforded working at Sam Houston State University, and looks forward to many more years of service.

Jordan Chang, MA

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Jordan Chang is the Assistant Director of the Center for Diversity & Intercultural Affairs and has been with Sam Houston State University (SHSU) since March 2015. Jordan’s Journey to Sam has been an interesting one that truly reflects on his diverse upbringing. Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Jordan moved to South Florida when he was 14 years old. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and his Masters of Education in Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton, FL. While at FAU, it was his campus involvement in a variety of student organizations and working within Student Affairs that garnered his interest in student development and higher education. While in the Higher Education program, his graduate assistantship was in the Office of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, which allowed him to share his experiences as a Chinese Jamaican man with others. It has also allowed him to develop skills in student advising, multicultural education and presentations.

Currently at SHSU, Jordan leads diversity efforts in heritage/history month programming as well as other cultural programming. He also conducts diversity trainings for classes, student organizations, and professional conferences. Jordan also serves as the student organization advisor for a myriad of cultural organizations including Diversity Council, African Student Association, NAACP, African Student Association and the Exceptional Men of The Talented Tenth, Inc. Throughout his time at Sam, he enjoys daily conversations with students across campus the most - it is through daily interactions and conversations that we truly learn the most about each other and humanity.

SHSU Diversity Events:

  • Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept-Oct)
  • Black History Month (Feb)
  • Diversity Leadership Conference (Feb)
  • Women’s History Month (March)
  • Lavender Graduation (Dec and May)
  • Latinx Graduation (Dec and May)
  • Fall/Spring Diversity Reader program
  • Diversity Poetry Slams

…and many more to come!