Supporting & Promoting Diversity
A diverse collection of knowledge, experiences, and expertise is essential for academic and scientific success. Equality and inclusion create welcoming environments that promote such diversity. I stand committed to promoting equality and inclusion both in the classroom and at the institutional level. My philosophy for supporting diversity, inclusion, and equality, outlined below, is based on action and respect.
An influential phrase that has helped shape my views on action-based inclusion is ‘purposeful inclusion eliminates accidental exclusion’. To practice this, I am currently a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the Lincoln Park Zoo and on the Racial and Cultural Inclusion Team. Our group works to ensure that the zoo is a welcoming institution for both visitors and staff of any race and culture, and that cultures are appropriately represented on our campus. As a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee I am a liaison and a voice for my fellow employees that may feel unsafe speaking out or are working to fight injustices in their everyday lives. I personally do not face daily injustices; therefore as a fellow colleague I use my privilege and capacity to support those that have traditionally been responsible for social justice education and activism on top of their every day job.
In the classroom and lab my first philosophy is respect. On the first day I explicitly let students know that I am there for them, that they are my first priority during teaching hours, and that I believe in them regardless of their background or circumstances. I treat each student as an individual and work to understand their circumstances so that I can tailor class material to relate to their everyday lives.
Representation is also important. Literature has shown that role models with shared identities have a greater impact, and I recognize that not all students share the same identity as me. Therefore, to increase representation in the classroom, I include diverse examples of scientists both through guest lectures and in my lecture materials. By including diverse role models in the classroom and lecture materials I hope to engage students and reinforces the idea that they too can become part of the next generation of leaders – regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
As for class management, I realize that some students have life circumstances that are of greater priority than a particular course, and some students have circumstances that make it hard to focus in the classroom. I format my courses with built-in flexibility so that all students can participate at the highest level. I do not see the student or their circumstances as a barrier to learning, and I manage my classroom in a way that works with students and not against them so they can learn comfortably, feel respected, and thrive.
On a personal level, I will continue to listen, learn, and grow. At Northeastern Illinois University I was part of the 2017 Social Justice Ally Cohort. The Social Justice Ally Cohort is a tailored multi-workshop training for faculty and staff that teaches participants about resources for undocumented students, allyship for LBGTQ+ students, exploring their own biases before entering the classroom, and how to be accommodating for students with varying abilities through the Disabilities Project. I will continue to educated myself in the resources available to all students, and I will continue to participate in trainings, listen to my fellow colleagues, and engage in self-awareness and personal growth.
Outside of the Lab
Finally, social justice issues outside of the classroom or lab are not mutually exclusive from a person’s success inside the classroom or lab. People facing social injustices in their personal lives face a major and real distraction – a distraction that will influence their ability to work and learn. Therefore, as a citizen I will continue to advocate for marginalized communities even outside of the lab.