NASFAA Virtual Conference Highlight: Ensuring a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

NASFAA’s 2023 Virtual Conference kicked off on Monday morning with a session from LaQuenta Jacobs, who gave tips and examples on how to build and ensure an inclusive work environment amid challenging times as a leader. 

Jacobs, the global vice president of inclusion, equity, and diversity at Kimberly-Clark, acknowledged that the past year has been difficult for the financial aid profession, with chronic staffing shortages and high turnover rates. 

“Although we have come out of a pandemic, the effects are real and are still very much felt for you and your staff,” she said. “The other nuance to your industry is that financial aid is going through the biggest regulatory changes experienced in the last 30 years, which brings more of an administrative burden to each of you as leaders.”

Jacobs stressed how collaboration and inclusion can create a resilient aid office during these challenging times, and asked attendees to think about the relationship between inclusion and collaboration, noting four common principles:

  • A shared vision and unity of purpose that can create a collective identity and unite employees within the office around an overarching purpose. 
  • The availability of resources to give employees equal access to information, opportunities, and relationships that they need to be successful.
  • An environment of understanding and influencing to connect with the communities the organization serves. 
  • Shared information and knowledge.

Additionally, Jacobs noted the five traits of inclusive leadership, as outlined by the consulting firm Korn Ferry

  • Having an adaptive mindset 
  • Leveraging talent from your staff 
  • Being open to new ideas
  • Being curious and empathetic with your staff 
  • Building trust with your staff and the communities you serve  

Ultimately, Jacobs stressed, today’s workforce is looking for an inclusive culture that allows individuals to be themselves, is flexible about where and when work gets done, and has purpose.   

“Today's workforce is looking for work cultures to go beyond only addressing how inclusion looks, to meaningfully addressing how inclusion feels,” Jacobs said. 


Publication Date: 7/11/2023

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