Alum Amplifies the Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Apr, 2023
Humboldt alum Eddie Pate visits campus to talk inclusion, diversity, equity

When a small pebble is dropped into a still body of water, it creates a small ripple. When another pebble is dropped, it creates another ripple. However, when these small pebbles are constantly thrown into the same still body of water, they create waves, movement, and stronger currents, eventually changing the water’s flow.

For Eddie Pate (‘88, Wildlife, ‘93, M.A. Sociology), dropping a continuous pebble of intentional inclusion, diversity, and equitable (IDE) actions gradually changes the flow of systemic inequalities for a more inclusive environment for underrepresented people.

“Diversity happens sustainably over time by dropping a pebble, which causes a ripple that causes someone else to drop another pebble causing a ripple, which causes someone else to drop another pebble, which causes a ripple,” Pate said during an IDE lecture on campus in February. “It’s the aggregation of all those little pebbles — or little systemic wins — that leads to systemic change, and that’s how you sustainably drive diversity efforts.”

As a former Cal Poly Humboldt football player, Pate received a B.S. in Wildlife in 1988. Five years later, Pate received his master’s degree in Sociology from Cal Poly Humboldt. Soon after, he received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Washington. Since then, Pate has spent his career working with companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, Avanade, and Amazon in driving their inclusion, diversity, and equity efforts.

“I always joke that I went from studying nice, predictable animals to unpredictable mean animals and studying people and really trying to figure them out,” Pate says.

Pate’s journey toward IDE work was very personal. As a biracial man, Pate says he had this gnawing feeling about how social and racial inequities played a role in his family’s life as he grew up.

“I always had this feeling of having a dilemma, if you will, that the world wasn't fair, the world had barriers and obstacles and created disadvantages for groups — whether it was women, people of color, or people with disabilities. It bugged me that people were blamed for stuff they weren't responsible for, and people didn't get what they needed to succeed. There are so many advantages and disadvantages baked into our society,” Pate says, adding that it was important for him and his family to understand who they are culturally.

This “bug” and “gnawing feeling” came to Pate at a time in his life when he wanted to continue his education and acquire a master’s degree. With the support of Cal Poly Humboldt Sociology Professor Emeritus Betsy Watson, Pate studied comparative race and ethnic relations at Cal Poly Humboldt’s Sociology department, where he readied for the University of Washington’s doctoral program.

“I felt very, very prepared to move on to graduate school and a Ph.D. program and have the dialogues, interactions, and understandings at those programs because of the diverse writings and strong faculty members at Cal Poly Humboldt like Betsy Watson pushing us like crazy,” Pate says.

Now partly retired, Pate is an Inclusion, diversity, and equity consultant and executive coach.

Throughout his visit to campus in February, Pate spoke with student-athletes, coaches, and athletics staff separately about the privilege of participating in athletics and how IDE comes hand in hand.

Pate’s message to students went over how to help develop or create inclusive, equitable, and diverse cultures as leaders in the workplace. He focused on ensuring all in attendance were left with a better understanding of how to lead inclusively, how to be fair and understanding of people from different backgrounds and how to be a champion and an ally in the drive to implement IDE efforts in their daily lives.

Pate is building new connections with Cal Poly Humboldt student-athletes, coaches, and staff — a value he holds near and dear to his heart as he still has connections with fellow football teammates, coaches, Wildlife and Sociology professors, and staff many years after attending Humboldt.

Pate hopes his recent visit and talks with the campus community left people and students inspired.

"What I really wanted to get out of my visit is an inspired group of athletes and an inspired group of students, faculty, and staff that make inclusion, diversity, and equity a part of how they work, how they live, you know, those kinds of things — to be good humans," Pate says. "That’s what I always hope to get out of things when I speak, to get people fired up and excited about how important IDE work is."

Photo caption: Eddie Pate speaks with students, faculty, and staff during a recent Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity lecture.