THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS SEMESTER
1. I DON’T — AND WILL NEVER — KNOW EVERYTHING
2. MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE
3. HAVE INTEGRITY IN MY WORK
I don’t — and will never — know everything
One of the key takeaways for me in this course was teaching myself to have the humility to realize that I am not an expert in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work. Having served in numerous roles within higher education, EDI concepts and practices are things I am familiar with. I have trained student and professional staff on these concepts in relation to various functional areas (housing and residence life, fraternity and sorority life, and campus recreation). I even currently hold an employment position with “EDI” in the title. All this experience and practice with EDI and I still have so much more to learn. This course revealed so many areas in which I still lack sufficient understanding. While I may be able to rattle off information within the general context of higher education, I am limited to discussing EDI in fields outside of student affairs. This class was an abrupt and necessary reminder that EDI work is never finished; it is truly a process rather than an achievable goal.
Meet people where they are
Another key takeaway from this course has been learning how to teach others about EDI given their previous exposure to such knowledge. As I have advanced hierarchically in student affairs as an employee and higher education as a student, I interact less with people who are unfamiliar with EDI topics. I am often able to operate within the assumption that the people I am working with have a similar take on information as I do as it relates to EDI in higher education. In this course however, I have learned how EDI manifests in fields outside of the higher education sector. It was really impactful to learn from my peers about what types of injustices exist within their fields of interest.
Have integrity in my work
Finally, in this class I learned how to hold myself accountable in a graduate learning environment. Seeing as though we did not have any quizzes or tests in the course, it was easy to revert into a mindset where I didn’t think the weekly readings were necessary. This forced me to be more intentional in employing strategies that challenged that way of thinking. One of the most effective strategies was taking time to reflect on what integrity meant to me in the classroom. Through that reflection process I realized it was to everyone’s benefit that I put forth a sincere effort. If I wanted any chance at enriching the learning experience for myself or my classmates, I needed to be sure to put in work in and out of the classroom. In the future, this will allow me to retain and apply knowledge from the course to improve my practice and relationships with others.
In the future, I will continue to recall lessons learned in this class in my practice and in my personal life. I intend to continuously check my ego when I begin to think of myself as an “expert” of anything. I will also remember to never settle for knowing enough. Finally, I will continue to reflect on what in means to have integrity in my work. I am committed to role modeling to my students and my fellow colleagues that learning is not only a degree-seeking practice. As the landscape of higher education and US society continues to change, so must our approach to EDI in our work.
As I proudly stated in my diversity statement:
“In the future, I aim to be a student affairs practitioner that leads with humility and empathy in a way that actively affirms, empowers, and welcomes all those I serve. More specifically, I will relentlessly work to provide opportunities and programs that allow all students to find their career passion while pursuing a life of well-being.”