Special assistant to the dean for diversity and inclusion and passionate advocate for underserved and underrepresented communities.
What was it that brought you to Leeds?
I have a love and passion for higher education. I know its power to transform because I was transformed through my experiences and relationships in higher ed as I strived toward my degrees. I can’t think of a better job than to be part of that transformation for our current and future students.
Additionally, in the job announcement, I saw an opportunity to step into a new space in which I could partner with and work for the deserving underserved and underrepresented communities to whom I am dedicated. I was further encouraged when in researching what diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) looked like at Leeds, I saw that those before me—some of which are still here, still working, and I’m fortunate to know, and some of which I’ll never have the opportunity to know—had done truly amazing work in creating programs and spaces for students. That communicated to me that Leeds was truly investing in the progressive foundations on which DEI in its authentic form is premised. Finally, I was brought to Leeds by the six people who sat in front of me during my interviews; listened to my story and passion for developing honest and authentic connection, relationship, and community; and said that Leeds was a place in which I would not only have an opportunity to live out those values, but also be a part of a team that similarly was invested in that vision.
What is your vision for your role?
My role has steadily evolved since I’ve been here. My foundational charge is to assist and advise Dean Matusik in her goals and initiatives as they relate to DEI. However, what has become apparent as I have spent time here at Leeds is that we have an amazing team of folks throughout Leeds that are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. So in addition to making sure that I’m a resource to Dean Matusik in ensuring that her dedication to DEI is demonstrated through action and progress, I also seek to serve as a bridge and resource for all the amazing students, staff, faculty, alumni, and external partners that are already pushing this work forward.
What are you planning to focus on for the upcoming year?
The next year is about taking all the momentum, movement, and promises we have seen on campus and within Leeds before and after the murder of George Floyd and making sure that it translates to honest and lasting change for our students, staff, and faculty; both inside our school and throughout our campus.
What is your point of view on this unique moment in time (i.e., what opportunities do you see to make an impact right now)?
I think there are a lot of opportunities out there, but I’m going to focus on Leeds in respect to DEI and our future.
Devastatingly through a mans televised murder, we have been given the opportunity to yet again reconceptualize who we are as a country and world—and what we value. The term “diversity, equity, and inclusion” to many has lost its value due to the numerous ways it has been used and overused throughout society. However, those words for me, especially in this time, are dense and ever significant, weighed down by truth and meaning.
I believe that at its idealized foundation, diversity, equity, and inclusion is about healing and health for all. It sits on the very real and powerful truth that all people have equal and inherent value. Simultaneously, DEI as a field and movement recognizes and works to correct the social distortion (of which racism is but one, of course, an important one) of this truth. In turn, this has resulted in severe and unnecessary violence against those that do not embody those identities that have been artificially put at the top of the social hierarchy and thereby social value system.
We have an opportunity to heal from this. What would it look like in Leeds if all of our community entered into our doors with a belief that everybody in that building had equal and inherent value? How transformative would it be if we could trust each other enough to take an honest look at our histories in all their complexities, so that we could deal with and heal from them. How much more transformative would our students be if they left our halls with an ingrained universal value of all people as well as a lens that allowed them to identify those social distortions as well as the tools to address them as they start their road to becoming our future leaders.
Of course, to different degrees this exists throughout Leeds. We have many students that leave us prepared to make change in our world. As I said above, I and we as a team are enjoying the fruits of the hard and often thankless work of folks currently and previously at Leeds. However, I don’t think any of those dedicated people would say that we have realized our potential within Leeds. We have a strong foundation on which to build. We have been provided a unique space and time to think big about where we want to go and what we want to evolve into. I think the only question is to what degree are we willing to do the very, very hard but also very necessary and healing work needed to see that evolution
I can attest from the many individuals and groups I’ve been fortunate to talk with in Leeds that many are. Many see its necessity. Many are doing the work individually in groups. And many are ready to build on that very strong foundation.