In a session titled, “Diversity Versus Inclusion: The Who and the How”, Erika Cox, interim director at the University of Texas at San Antonio; Jennifer Bell, associate director at the University of Oregon; and Jim Brooks, associate vice president at the University of Oregon and NASFAA’s former (and first) diversity officer discussed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the financial aid office, as part of the conference’s diversity track.
Brooks shared a diversity equation, that diversity = equity + inclusion, and Bell expanded on the meanings of those three terms, explaining that diversity is the presence of difference, inclusion leverages diversity by allowing everyone to benefit from others’ experiences, and equity is an ongoing process of introspection that acknowledges privilege and the fact that not everyone starts in the same place, with the outcome of equity being to help people get to the finish line by positioning themselves at the right starting point.
Bell stressed that, while diversity is more easily measured than inclusion or equity, it is not limited to what is visible, reminding participants that there are always identities present in a group that you might not be aware of because you didn’t ask, or because individuals are reticent to share them. It is important, she said, to make space for all types of diversity. Inclusion, she described is a step beyond diversity, but is where the benefits of diversity are realized. She noted that inclusion entails listening and asking questions, because the only experts on individual experiences are the individuals themselves. Finally, equity is the stage that requires consciousness and honesty, where individuals need to recognize what they may be doing wrong. Ensuring equity, she said, ensures that people with marginalized identities have opportunities to grow.
Presenters shared practices toward achieving DEI goals. Cox stressed that considering institutional demographics is essential in developing a strategy. Areas to examine as you seek to implement DEI initiatives include office and university policies and procedures, core values statements, professional development opportunities, hiring practices and onboarding, and whether your office presents a welcoming environment for every student. Cox acknowledged the conflicting priorities for time in financial aid offices, but she made the case for making time for these initiatives by citing research showing that companies with more diverse workforces outperform their competitors
Bell shared the negative outcomes of failing to support DEI in the financial aid office, including tokenism, where individuals from certain backgrounds are put on display as evidence of diversity; exploitation, where individuals are called upon to do things outside of their job responsibilities because of their background, such as relying too heavily on Spanish-speaking staff to assume roles outside of their stated duties; and marginalization, where individuals have talents no one asks them to use, while they are instead assigned to areas management assumes they want to work, such as hosting a minority students day.
As for steps toward creating a diverse, inclusive, and equity-focused department, the presenters stressed modeling your own behavior for your staff to see by asking questions, being an advocate, investing in your development, sharing learning experiences, creating a safe space that is tolerant of mistakes, and creating equitable opportunities for your staff.
Note: This session was livestreamed for NASFAA Live and was also recorded. In early July, this session will be made available for on-demand viewing for all registered attendees, both on-site and NASFAA Live registrants. Watch Today's News and your email for a notification when they are available.
Publication Date: 6/26/2019