I strongly believe that the skills of pluralism, inclusion, and open-mindedness are not only essential to any profession, but also to living in a diverse society. It is precisely because I feel so strongly about this particular competency that I intend to pursue a career in diversity and multicultural affairs. In order to serve students, either from a national policy perspective or from daily interactions, I must have an awareness of the existing biases, assumptions, and expectations of mine and of others—students, co-workers, etc. I do not believe the appropriate way to work with people of different backgrounds is to diminish differences and expect that everyone is coming from the same place, but instead to foster an environment where everyone’s differences and unique perspectives can be leveraged to contribute to the overall functioning and success of the unit. It is important to celebrate culture and background, as it is part of the holistic individual which influences how one views and acts within society.
One role of a diversity officer is to expand the cultural awareness on campus and increase sensitivity to minority communities. This can be achieved through facilitating inter-group dialogues, providing effective multicultural training to students, staff, and the community, and implementing “culturally relevant” (Love, et al., 2008) and inclusive programs. On campus or within the professional setting, it is important to be an advocate and ally for minority groups in all aspects of university life, as well as a role model for proper inclusive and culturally sensitive behavior. While this ongoing behavior is necessary, it is also important to adopt a strategic and sustainable method of fully integrating diversity awareness and sensitivity into departments and across campus. And to ensure this is happening, there must be a system in place to assess the effectiveness of the institution to address multicultural issues, as well as a way to conduct climate surveys by students and staff.
Most of my adult life I have been aware of the disparity among minority groups and have seen, even from my own undergraduate experience, the different college experiences that individuals who are part of different cultural groups can have. My interest in closing these gaps in society has been explored primarily academically up until this point. As an undergraduate I attended a joint program between the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, the most diverse of the Ivy League institutions. At Columbia I studied sociology with a focus on race, class, and gender stratification, and at the Seminary I served as a Resident Advisor. It may seem that because I worked in the residence halls of a seminary one would assume my residents were entirely homogenous in terms of their religious backgrounds. However, the reality is that even on a macro level within one religion, as an RA I counseled students from a variety of backgrounds and sectarian perspectives within Judaism who were having questions about their role in the community.
Similarly, in my current position I also work with a Jewish organization but I run a project whose mission is to engage students are currently uninvolved and help them find connection to Jewish campus life on their own terms. We have based our strategy on research about today’s generation of college students. In this capacity I also meet with a variety of multi-cultural campus professionals to discuss how our project can be a partner to the university in its larger diversity mission.
I am also well aware that part of being a diversity professional and practicing inclusion will also mean having to confront, tolerate, and even advocate for positions and viewpoints that I personally may not agree with. I know that when opinions are put forth that I may find offensive or incorrect, my professional duty will require me to act appropriately and turn that experience into an open dialogue to bring awareness to the issue.
et al., 2008)
and University Partnership
When working within an organization, specifically in a capacity where you have an institutional mission to bring diversity and inclusion to every aspect of campus life, it is important to understand how to be a good university partner and fully understand the mission of the University leadership and administration. It appears from a variety of current job descriptions that the Office of Diversity/Inclusion/Multi-cultural Affairs reports directly to the Office of the President. It’s important to have a greater understanding of your role within that organizational context.
The ACPA Report on Professional Competencies identifies several categories of the administration with whom it is important to develop competencies. The most relevant to my specific field would be Resource Management, Technology, Human Resources (including Conflict Management, Team-building, Motivation, Supervision, and Hiring), and Organizational Development (including Planning and Organizing, Cultural Landscape, Political Landscape, Types of Leadership, Change, Goal Setting, and Organizational Improvement) (Love, et al., 2008). Additionally, Joan Hirt, Associate Professor of higher education administration at Virginia Tech, suggests that “by adapting their narrative to more closely parallel the dominant narratives that faculty and academic administrators use to define their world, student affairs professionals might find faculty more receptive to their ideas and more appreciative of their endeavors” (2007, p.258). It would be of utmost important to me in this role to speak the same language as other university partners so that our common goals could be best achieved.
In my undergraduate and previous work experiences, I have learned first-hand and from my supervisors how to be a collaborative university partner while maintaining and protecting the workload of the employees within a particular department. As an RA, I was part of the Office of Residence Life but had to work closely with the Office of Student Affairs as well as the Jewish Student Life Office, among others. I conducted many programs with a variety of these other offices, and was always a team player in terms of sharing resources, ideas, and credit.
is a pivotal element
for progress and continued success of any university.
As a diversity professional it will be
important to assess both the progress of our broader strategies in
sense and the actual diversity on campus, as well my own personal work
improvement within my department. According
to the Dean of Students at the
Additionally, these measurements and studies would have to be based on genuine interest in assessment and not a cursory attempt in order to appease external stakeholders. According to Carpenter and Stimpson, “[a]ccountability should not reflect simplistic goals, written for management bureaucrats from outside the profession, using meaningless or even harmful ‘measurements’ or ‘ratings’ that result in increased injustice and inequity on campuses or in a false kind of success based on profit or efficiency…Assessment should be not only ubiquitous, but also meaningful” (2008, p. 281). When professionals get busy with actually doing the work, there is no doubt that assessment gets pushed to bottom of the priority list. However, when trying to create institutional change, it needs to remain at the forefront.
Technology Skills (Love, et al., 2008)
The college students of today are of the Millennial generation. They grew up with technology moving at an incredibly rapid pace, and most of their daily routine happens on the internet. It would only make sense then, to keep up with the demands of the university’s primary constituents, and to capitalize on the efficiency their technology facilitates, that the tools of higher education professionals are now primarily online as well. From registering for classes, to receiving feedback from professors, the internet is the primary source for college students today. In this vain, it is essential that employees who work with this population also understand how to fully utilize this tool.
According to the ACPA’s 2008 report, a student affairs professional must be able to: maintain their own level of technical proficiency and knowledge in order to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their work; identify and meet the technological needs of the team; be able to identify new technological advances appropriate to the nature of work in the unit; and discern the pace in which technological advances should appropriately be incorporated into organizational life, with students, staff, and other constituents (Love, et al., 2008).
have made great strides
professionally by working with a wide variety of online tools, and
accomplishing a great mastery of these systems.
As an Assistant Director for Prospect Research at
ReferencesCarpenter, S. & Stimpson, M. T. (2007). Professionalism, scholarly practice, and professional development in student affairs. NASPA Journal, 44(2), 265-284.
Carpenter, S., Haggerty, B., Hoffman, D., Janosik,
S., & Klein, S., et al. (2008). Professional competencies: A
report of the ACPA steering committee on
professional competencies.Sandeen, A. & Barr, M. J. (2006). Critical issues for student affairs: Challenges and
Williamson, E. G.
personnel services in colleges and universities.