Erika McCalpine is a business instructor at OSU-Cascades, and a is a past speaker at City Club’s November 2018 Forum titled: Politics, Sex & Religion – How to have difficult conversations without being difficult. She’s also become quite the icon in Central Oregon winning Source Weekly’s Women of the Year. City Club’s Marketing Committee Member, Ashley Mears (U.S. Bank) caught up with Erika to talk about what life has been like after making her debut on stage with City Club.

If you missed the forum watch it here

Q: Can you tell us a little about how you decided to come to Central Oregon?
I came for the job opportunity. I wanted my children to have a new experience and realize that the world is so much larger than the south (Erika relocated from Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

Q: Since moving to Bend, what have you noticed about the community compared to Alabama? How has the journey been?
There is a lack of diversity and cliques. It takes a while to “belong.” I personally acquired local fame immediately, and it’s been a bit taxing. I feel like I must be my “best-self” and a perfect representation of my race. I am very appreciative of the experiences, but it takes a lot to be vulnerable on stage. I don’t want to send the wrong message, and I also want to make sure to keep my authenticity.

Q: Our November forum was on how to have difficult conversations? You shared a story about racial comments directed towards you while walking through Old Mill. What type of feedback did you get afterward from your students, colleagues, friends, and public in general?
I felt like the students, and my colleagues were very supportive. After City Club, I was asked by Dr. Steven Koski to speak to his congregation around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day. I didn’t want to share the same story but take the opportunity to move the conversation in a positive direction. It was a great experience. I want my message to be that “Bend is not bad!”. That was just one experience, and I am not going to allow it to shape my experience.

Q: Since being on the panel, what has changed for you?
I have been asked to speak at many speaking engagements and was Source Weekly’s “Women of the Year.” When I moved here no one knew me. City Club was the start of it all!

Q: What would you like City Club to know about?
I think it is important to get questions from the audience. I want to hear what they are thinking, feeling, and wondering about. Being able to answer questions is a way to make sure I am coming across how I want my message to be perceived.

Q: How has City Club helped you connect with the community?
It was my first exposure to the community, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I would like to continue the topic of “Inclusion.”

Q: What would you like your legacy to be?
My legacy…hmmm…ultimately, I want my children to have a mother they can be proud of, my family and friends to consider me dependable and supportive, and for anyone that has met me to remember that exchange as one in which I was kind and courteous. I want to shape the minds of my students so that they are objective and curious thinkers that are engaging leaders in their respective workplaces. I want to do my part in making any community I am a part of one that is welcoming to everyone and has a genuine sense of togetherness.

Q: What’s next for you?
For the immediate future, I hope to have even more conversations about what Bend is and what we can become…together.

Thank you to Erika McCalpine (OSU-Cascades) and interviewer, Ashley Mears (Assistant VP, Business Banking Relationship Manager, U.S. Bank).