Diversity and Inclusion…where does it begin?
I had the opportunity to attend two workshops on diversity and inclusion open to staff and faculty of Illinois Tech, which was hosted by the Student Employment Office and facilitated by InQuest. We are known for our diversity, with over one-third of our student population being international. As a university, diversity and inclusion is one of our greatest missions because if improved, it can offer a better experience to international or minority group students and staff. Truly understanding the depth of inclusion and our differences, increases our ability to work with and understand people who are different than us in a multitude of aspects.
Personally, some of the concepts that were being discussed seemed like second nature to me — see people for their difference, everyone works differently, and diversity is a much larger term than just outward appearances. However, as I was listening to the responses from a few of the staff members I was shocked by the answers they didn’t see, but then I had an epiphany. I was missing the point of the workshop…I was assuming that people would know the terms or phrases that are ‘respectful’ and how to ‘understand diversity’. I was forgetting that I, a 20 year old college student, grew up in a different environment than they did, with different families, and different challenges. The true point of diversity and inclusion initiatives isn’t to be upset with people for not understanding diversity; it’s the concept of those who know to teach, and those who don’t, to listen with a genuine desire to understand. We will fall flat if we can’t see that there is work on both sides, and as a university, we must be compelled to understand the vision of complete inclusion.
One takeaway from the first session, was to attempt to lower the water line with people in your work life. To elaborate, the speaker was encouraging us to make an attempt to know the people in our work life, to see coworkers as diverse, complex, and interesting human beings that are gifted in their own way. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? To really try to see people we are working with, to realize that at the end of the day we all go home to something, and it will affect us in our work life whether we want it to or not. Life isn’t black and white; it’s complex and messy, and the sooner we realize that each person has a struggle, a disability, or a pain we can hopefully treat each other with the respect we would want in return. Diversity and inclusion initiative isn’t about logistics, or political correctness, it starts at seeing people, as simply human. My deepest thanks to Roger Crockett and InQuest for their dedication to spreading inclusion throughout the workplace.
About the Author
Samantha (Sammye) Hudson is a 3rd year Biomedical Engineer on the Neural track at Illinois Tech. She has been an Student Government Association Senator, and currently serves on the executive board for Kappa Phi Delta Sorority and Union Board. She started work in the CI unit, summer of 2018 and has enjoyed supporting departments on campus since. After acquiring her degree, she plans to pursue a career in medical device development here in Chicago.