1. With the rise in DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) positions within the workforce across the nation, how do we implement this practice in education and avoid tokenizing marginalized students and provide support to develop a more inclusive space?
This question is tricky and comes up a lot in my current work. There is a balance that needs to be struck between allyship and representation. Like any other business, true success emerges from a diversity of voices present at the table. Everyone has hard-to-perceive blindspots that can lead the way to suppression of a particular group. You need to hear the needs of each community/group — what they struggle with, what they lack in support and resources, and what spaces in these institutions they feel excluded from and WHY. We must always keep the lense that all higher education institutions were spaces created for white affluent cisgendered men. Anyone outside of that profile can likely point to spaces in these institutions that do not fit/suit them and their needs, and because of this, it contributes to a campus culture of exclusivity and to feelings of imposter syndrome.
2. Given COVID and the pandemic, in which ways do you believe institutions of education can distinguish themselves from others to better serve students and attract incoming ones as well?
In the spirit of inclusivity and making institutions accessible to all, they need to think about all the barriers to entry for remote learning and translate that in two places: in the admissions process and in the virtual classroom for current students. Things many people take for granted are privileges that many students do not have — access to the internet, at-home laptops or desktops that can be used for schoolwork at any time, quiet dedicated spaces to study, the luxury of being able to focus on your studies instead of potentially having to watch younger siblings or care for sick/elderly family members, etc. All of these things can impact a student's ability to excel in a remote school environment. Shifting the thinking around grades and test performance as the only way to judge a student's intellectual capacity, especially in the midst of this pandemic, disproportionately affects students who may be dealing with any previously stated circumstances that strain a student's ability to learn.
3. What roles do you think leisure and community play within balancing academics?
I know of many students who have taken a leave of absence from their schooling because learning has been shifted to a remote setting. Unlike high school, college classrooms are a place to have an interactive and open dialogue that may not translate in a remote teaching environment. College is not just a place to expand your knowledge and hone in on your academic interests, but it is also a place to build relationships, learn to balance academics and social life and experience the independence that primes you to go into the workforce.
I would be lying if I told you that the independence I got to experience on campus did not make my experience richer and fuller. To me, leisure and community are equally important to achieving your degree. I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to concentrate on my work while also still dealing with the realities of home.
4. Do you find that same type of functionality within your professional roles now?
Absolutely. It is a hard transition to work remotely. I miss the casual conversations with coworkers and the escape from my day to day. Having to work in the same space I do everything else is challenging. With time, you figure out how to balance it and make working from homework for you, but there are still difficult days when you would rather curl up on your couch and be with family.