What is your career story? How did you get to be where you are now?
I was a student activist in college, a passionate student who tried to organize my peers to unify under a common identity and cause. I also recognized how important it was for me and my development to see people who looked like me holding different roles in higher education administration. I desired to pay forward the investment these amazing trailblazers who are among some of my greatest teachers. While I’ve since moved between non-profit and higher education, I stayed true to this desire—my personal “why” to invest in diverse communities, to empower individuals to own their stories, and to move the needle on creating more inclusive environments across industries so that everyone can live their fullest lives.
Long story short, I went into student affairs because that’s where I thought I could make the highest impact. However, in doing D&I work over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of different types and sizes of organizations, and I am building my D&I career alongside my day job. I also took a page out of a mentor’s advice book—to examine jobs in career tracks that I can envision myself doing one day and to build a transferrable skill set around those qualities and characteristics. This meant spending time in conducting applied research, learning how to read the political landscape of an institution, and seeking out ways to show that I am a thought leader in D&I even if it was not explicitly central to my role.
What has opened up doors and opportunities for you professionally over the years?
The single most powerful thing that has opened up doors and opportunities for me professionally over the years has been remaining connected to good people who do good work. These individuals not only helped nurture my heart and soul when life became turbulent, but these individuals invested in me and my development. For example, after remaining connected to faculty advisor, Sukari Pinnock, and sharing my interest in developing a strong D&I practice outside of higher education, we worked together on a small number of projects because we saw how our talents and personalities can create a dynamic experience for our client. After this experience working together, I am teaching one of the modules in the Fall 2015 Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management program.
What trends are you most excited about in your field?
In higher education, I am observing that some institutions are walking the walk when it comes to pushing their campuses to become more inclusive. I am seeing a variety of innovative strategies and some tried-and-true initiatives. I am seeing that the number of folks who ask critical questions about how an initiative works within the strategic direction of a unit or institution, and how to sustain this work for the long-term. Outside of higher education, I am observing an interest to bridge the gap between the generations of a workforce. Across industries, I’m observing a desire to have conversations related to current events, such as how does an institution go beyond compliance of new laws and policies, such as marriage equality with same sex couples, to include how to create environments where those individuals can thrive.
How did taking classes at Georgetown affect your career/future plans?
At some point, I thought that I might spend my life and career in higher education. However, after completing the program and being connected to my cohort, I saw a much larger world with countless opportunities to do D&I work. In my current full time role, the certificate program is helping me frame why it’s important to invest in the diversity of graduate students and how to invest in a strategic way in the midst of a tight budget forecast. In my D&I practice, I am actively seeking opportunities to gain experience working with different types and sizes of organizations.
How did you apply what you’ve learned at Georgetown in your job or career?
Applying the language in my various jobs after the program has been immensely helpful in advocating in a different way for students (and in other cases, staff and faculty). The various models I learned were helpful in crafting the “why” and “how” of new or continuing initiatives. I was also able to cite literature that is outside of the higher education realm, which demonstrated that I get both student development and organizational direction. The practicum experience in the certificate program gave me a taste of how to work with a client, especially in crafting achievable, measureable outcomes. Some times in higher education, as educators, we want to achieve very lofty goals about student learning. However, it is not always feasible. The program has helped me ground goals and outcomes in more realistic and achievable terms that can build and continue to build momentum in real organizational change.
What are your future goals?
Though I am still figuring out some medium-term goals and steps, I know that I want a career that is a mix of D&I consulting or programming work, teaching or facilitating courses, and applied research. I value both research and practice, and often strive to bridge the gap between the two to increase effectiveness.
Do you have any advice for others in your field?
There is a stereotype that all student affairs professionals and higher education administrations romanticize that we are doing the best and most noble work. To some extent, that can be true. However, much like the lesson I learned engaging with my cohort, there is good work happening in lots of places outside of higher, with really dedicated folks. I would encourage D&I individuals in higher education to also look outside of higher education, and see what we can offer or learn from those in other industries.