As the population of students entering higher education continues to diversify, more and more efforts are being taken to ensure that college campuses provide a culture of inclusion and address the unique needs of underserved students. NASFAA’s newest initiative, the Diversity Leadership Program (DLP), seeks to bring this conversation into the realm of higher education leadership. Unveiled in 2018, this program will provide individuals from identified under-represented groups in the association community with support, access, and opportunities for leadership. To get a better idea of how issues involving diversity manifest in the world of higher education and financial aid, we spoke with NASFAA’s Diversity Officer Craig Slaughter about his experience thus far serving as an appointed officer for NASFAA and what he believes are the biggest struggles facing aid administrators from diverse backgrounds today.
1. Why were you interested in serving as NASFAA’s Diversity Officer?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to become involved with NASFAA as a volunteer very early in my professional career. It is an organization that I believe in and it has been exciting to see how NASFAA has continued to evolve and grow to address the needs of member institutions and the students we serve. As a black man growing up on military bases around the world—my father was enlisted in the Air Force—I have been exposed to many cultures, languages, and amazing experiences. I truly believe that we are all enriched from the experiences and perspectives that diversity brings and as NASFAA's Diversity Officer I want to do all that I can to ensure that NASFAA provides an inclusive and welcoming space for others to offer their ideas and talent.
2. Why is diversity important to higher education and the financial aid profession?
Demographics in the U.S. are changing rapidly. While our politics have become increasingly polarized, I firmly believe that solutions won't be found when we retreat to our respective safe corners and hunker down, but rather when we reach out and listen and gain insight into the perspectives of someone whose lived experience is very different than our own. As the demographics in the country change, so too will most of our campuses. Bringing diversity of backgrounds into the conversation on policy is critical to the future success of our students.
3. What unique struggles do diverse workers in our profession face?
I think the struggles that diverse workers in financial aid face are not too dissimilar to the challenges facing those in other employment settings. While representation is important and we do need to ensure that a diverse perspective of backgrounds and ideas are invited to participate, we also need to ensure that the environment in which people work or volunteer is open and inclusive. Individuals must feel empowered to contribute and know that their ideas are welcomed and respected. In financial aid, we have the additional layer of working directly with students and their families who themselves come from diverse backgrounds. Our engagement with colleagues from diverse backgrounds can help inform how we engage students and their families.
4. How can NASFAA’s new Diversity Leadership Program help frame a future of inclusion in higher education?
NASFAA's Diversity Leadership Program is an exciting next step to ensure that a diverse perspective of ideas becomes an intentional part of the conversation on financial aid policy at the state, regional, and national levels. Program participants will receive support for professional development and mentorship opportunities to advance their careers. We also seek to engage and connect participants with opportunities to serve within NASFAA and the regional associations. By doing so, we can ensure that the diversity of ideas and experiences from within our profession are represented in the leadership of the organizations serving us and our students.
The deadline to apply for the Diversity Leadership Program (DLP) is quickly approaching. Please refer to the DLP webpage for more information about program benefits, the applicant selection process, and eligibility criteria. Applications are due Sept. 30, 2018.
Publication Date: 9/25/2018