Many of my ideas about diversity and inclusion in academia and the classroom can be seen as developing through my blog over the last few years. I am dedicated to diversity and inclusion within higher education, my research, and my teaching. This has been recognized through my induction to the Bouchet Society. I have also presented workshops on diversity and inclusion within higher education as well as pedagogically.

My formal statement on diversity and inclusion can be found below:

In my time in higher education I have been at a small all-women’s university, a mid-size predominantly female university, and a large predominantly male university. At each of these institutions I have observed and learned a little bit more about how diversity, inclusion, and equity can and should look. Additionally, as a queer White woman from Appalachia, the saliency of certain identities has been different at each institution and within different spaces. All aspects of my work in teaching, research, service, and outreach brings in discussions of diversity, inclusion, systemic oppression, and equity. The understanding and work within each area influences the other.

I am a feminist family scholar whose primary area is gender and sexuality within the family context. Specifically, I focus on sexuality development and family diversity including singlehood and sexual minority individuals and their families across the life course. Within my teaching I try to bring in diverse perspectives as well as use universal access for my courses, whether they are taught online or in-person. I believe topics about differing lived experiences and understanding diverse learning styles should be woven throughout courses rather than included just one day of the semester. The semesters I teach, I challenge myself to be more inclusive in the classroom—in how material is presented, how content is discussed, accessibility, and allowing multiple voices and opinions to be heard and respected. In my teaching and research, I try to challenge the dominant discourse of deviance when individuals and families do not look or behave in the Standard North American Family (SNAF) model of White, heterosexually married, middle-class, and able-bodied.

Much of my teaching has been influenced by critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire and bell hooks. I believe that critical pedagogy and a liberal arts mission can play hand in hand in the aspect that education is about learning to expand one’s horizons, learning for learning’s sake, and is a lifelong activity. Education is and can be explored past what is being told to us, by empowering students to be critically engaged and active participants in society. It is being willing to challenge the values and beliefs we hold dear by analyzing what is being learned and understanding what they believe and why, such as deconstructing received wisdom. Critical pedagogy and liberal arts allow education to be broader than training for a specific path in life or career, not just striving for capital-t Truth and knowledge but also how we live in the world.

Challenging students and our selves is aided by reflection, which I try to use in all of my courses as a way to generate multiple authorities of knowledge and understanding. For some students it is speaking about their own experiences, while for others it is being exposed to new or different ideas. Yet, they never know when they may be confronted with something that they were not expecting and just initial exposure to what it is and how to potentially handle the situation may help.

I once told a colleague when discussing institutional challenges, if there is something you do not like, change it. We have metaphorical voices and we can and should use them. In each of my roles—research, teaching, and service—I try to lead by example. In certain spaces, my words may not always be heard, but my actions can speak for me. In everything I do, I tend to listen to many voices before speaking. I try to embody collegiality while still challenging the status quo within my roles. This includes speaking up in times and spaces that are not traditionally welcoming to my voice. When I do have the chance to speak, I try to speak not for, but with those who may not be in the room, since I am allowed a voice in some spaces where others do not. I also try to be challenge those I am speaking to in a respectful way where the ideas of diversity and inclusion are then absorbed. Maybe not in the moment, but as seeds that can grow over time. Often times it is through sharing of one’s own stories and experiences that can plant a seed. It is within me to not impede access for these stories and experiences to be shared. Within higher education this can include opening up access to education, and assisting in ways that can help everyone to succeed from the first day to graduation day and beyond the walls of the institution.

Being a woman in social sciences at a male dominated, engineering and “hard science” dominated institution, it can be tempting to be quiet and let others lead the conversation. However, as I indicated to that colleague, sometimes we just need to speak up and try to be heard. This can also include being a support voice of others to move forward in being more inclusive and make needed changes. To make changes within a system, people need to not only see what we are aiming to do and the big picture of all the different parts, but also all of the little steps to get where we want to be going. A true leader sometimes has others do the smaller steps and sometimes is one of the minutemen who works on them themselves, or is willing to follow the directions of another. I try to keep this in mind with each bit of service work I do within my current institution and national organization.

In my time at schools from 800 students to 31,000, one of my observations is that a diverse campus is not simply about filling a quota but about sharing lived experiences and ideas. That is one thing I try to keep in mind by reading and listening to the critiques of those with lived experiences different than mine. This has shifted the way I engage with the work that I do and the learning will continue as my work will continue within my commitment towards enhancing diversity and inclusion in my teaching, research, and service work.