Living their life’s work in diversity roles

Diversity resource coordinators lead a workshop in North Hall. Photo by Tim Schoon.

One of us grew up in a poor family in the Cleveland suburbs and the other as part of the second black family in a Chicago west-side neighborhood.

Fortunately, our life paths have crossed at the University of Iowa, where we bring our personal and professional expertise and energy together as the new diversity resource coordinators in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the Chief Diversity Office.

We joke that we’re partners in crime, but we’re really partners in collaboration. We’d like to tell you a little bit more about the many ways we’re working to make a difference on our campus and in our community. But first, we want to give you a glimpse into the odysseys that brought us to our current positions.

Lindsay Jarratt

Lindsay Jarratt
I grew up in a pretty poor family in the suburbs of Cleveland, and was the first in my family to go to college. I worked and took loans to pay for college, originally planning to become an elementary teacher.

But my experience in college made such a profound impact that I shifted my focus and went on to get my master’s degree in college student personnel at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). I wanted to partner with students in making meaning of the opportunities to learn and grow, as well as work to provide greater access for all students to institutions of higher education. For several years, I worked in student housing, at BGSU, Western Washington University, and finally here at the UI.

Throughout that time, I was learning and growing, too, and it became more and more evident that my heart was truly invested in striving for diversity, equity, and inclusion. So when this position opened up, it seemed like a dream come true.

Jacquett Wade

Jacquett Wade
My path and journey to my life’s work started as a young girl growing up on the west side of Chicago where our family was the second black family to move into our neighborhood. Attending Eastern Illinois University (EIU) provided me with an opportunity to experience and begin to negotiate diversity and differences, although this terminology wasn’t used back in the day.

I like to believe I was destined for this work because life in central Illinois at EIU is where I first experienced issues of racism and discrimination. I can vividly recall walking down Madison Street and being called a racial epithet simply for the color of my beautiful brown skin tone. It was crazy because at the time I lived with a white family, and they provided me with the most amazing support. Somewhere I figured it out that it’s really about relationships.

Negotiating diversity and differences through teamwork
There’s no shortage of work for the two of us, but we can’t imagine a place we would rather be. It’s actually a pretty unique work situation, having two people in a position like ours, and even sharing an office space. It allows us to work as a team and to support each other. So often, working for diversity and inclusion can feel isolating, so we applaud the university’s vision and Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge’s leadership in implementing a team-based approach for our campus.

This same vision is interwoven into our day-to-day job responsibilities as well. We field requests from student groups and campus departments for training sessions and speaking engagements; as a result, we spend time traveling around campus, meeting with colleagues in our efforts to build collaborative partnerships around negotiating diversity and differences.

Our work is made easier because we both believe that we are living our life’s work, as opposed to simply working. This allows us to strive for a level of understanding, commitment, learning, compassion, patience, and passion that we otherwise might not have.

Because of our backgrounds, we recognize that diversity means different things to different people. It can mean being a different race, ethnicity, or culture. It can be based on gender, sexual orientation, or being differently abled. Or it can be seen through the lens of a different social class or political or affiliation group. Diversity is all of these things and so much more.

Do we enjoy what we do? You bet! In fact, to find us, you can probably just follow the sounds of joking and laughter coming from our office in 202 Jessup Hall.

So now that our paths have brought us to the UI and you know a little bit about our philosophy, we want to share a few tangible examples of our initiatives and resources. We hope many of you will participate in one or more of these in the coming years.

From celebrations to safe zones
Several of the major initiatives we are working on demonstrate how we weave diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our campus.

Safe Zone and National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) trainings are open to faculty, students, and staff. Faculty and staff sign can sign up through My Trainings (Learning and Development), and students can register by contacting the Safe Zone coordinator at safe-zone@uiowa.edu or jacquett-wade@uiowa.edu. Additional Safe Zone information can be found at www.uiowa.edu/~lgbsfa/safezone
.html
. To schedule an NCBI workshop for your department or class, contact Jarratt at lindsay-jarratt@uiowa.edu. Students can also contact Jarratt to sign up for the NCBI workshop.

Safe Zone Project: The Safe Zone Project was developed as a campuswide program that offers a visible message of inclusion, affirmation, and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the university community. The project was revived at the request of Dodge and Sharon Beck, finance and human resources representative. The Chief Diversity Office stepped up in a big way to assume leadership for it. With our arrival, Beck has graciously turned over the responsibilities for the coordination of Safe Zone to Wade. We work with some colleagues who have participated in the Safe Zone trainings and now assist us as facilitators in educating the campus community about how to become allies for the LGBTQ community.

National Coalition Building Institute: Another initiative that we’re involved in, with Jarratt taking the lead, is the university’s recently established affiliate, or team, of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), a non-profit that works through a coalition-building approach to provide leadership training for diversity and inclusion, with the lofty goal of eliminating all forms of prejudice throughout the world. One of the programs that NCBI is most well known for developing is the one-day “Leadership for Equity and Inclusion” workshop, which our newly formed affiliate offers on campus for free for interested faculty, staff, or students.

The workshop is highly interactive and hands on, and is definitely not your typical “diversity training.” Participants will be prompted to engage in a lot of self-reflection and sharing, practice talking about the messages we internalize about our own and others’ groups, correct misinformation through “caucus” sessions, learn through the sharing of personal stories and experiences, and finally, learn to address hurtful jokes, comments, and slurs.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival: We’re also fortunate to get to plan some of the biggest (and most fun) events on campus, including the Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival (CCDF). Since 1990, the CCDF has given members of the UI and its surrounding communities an opportunity to learn about each other through food, games, dance, music, literature, storytelling, arts, and crafts. Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 31, 2012, in the UI Field House, from noon to 5 p.m.

Please also visit our website, www.uiowa.edu/~eod, to learn about the Diversity Catalyst Awards, the Seed Grant program, and other initiatives and resources.

If we haven’t met you yet, we hope to in the coming year whether through a celebration, training, or another project.

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