AAUW Brandman members start diversity and academia conversation
May 31, 2018 by Cindy O’Dell
Brandman University’s virtual branch of the AAUW left the online world in May to hold an in-person forum on diversity. More than 70 people attended the forum in Irvine, including faculty members, administrative leaders and staff members.
The Forum on Diversity and Inclusiveness offered a safe space for people of diverse backgrounds to talk about issues surrounding diversity and inclusion and overcoming social and academic barriers. The AAUW’s goal was to generate a pathway for resolving challenges associated with diversity in higher education and academia, said the organizers.
From left, standing: Tami Lincoln, Jalin Johnson, Lynn Larsen, Laura Galloway, Helen Eckmann, Nakisha Castillo, Leticia Rojas. Front: Kimberly Greene, Lata Murti. Not pictured: Randa Jad-Moussa.
The committee organizing the event included AAUW branch members from across disciplines:
- AAUW branch President –Tami Lincoln, Ed.D.
- AAUW branch Diversity Chair –Jalin Johnson, Ed.D.
- Lynn Larsen, Ph.D.
- Laura Galloway, Ph.D.
- Helen Eckmann, Ed.D.
- AAUW branch Financial Secretary –Nakisha Castillo, DFT
- Leticia Rojas, Ed.D.
- Kimberly Greene, Ed.D.
- Lata Murti, Ph.D.
- Randa Jad-Moussa
‘Our university has always prided itself on its diverse student body. Our students come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and our faculty and staff honor that diversity by coming together to share ideas about diversity and inclusion,” said Lincoln. “The forum was an opportunity to build community within our institution, and in the end, that community better serves our students.”
Faculty members wait their turn to add comments on diversity and inclusion experiences.
“The questions, prompts and discussion format provided participants the opportunity to critically look at issues in our household, community and the world we share,” said Assistant Professor Hawani Negussie. “I found reflections expressed by individuals to be moving … the space we exist in at any time benefits from the representation of diverse thoughts to mitigate implicit and explicit biases.”
Others called the event powerful, timely, surprisingly relaxed and a chance to recognize how their backgrounds inform their decisions.
Those attending engaged in three discussions: defining diversity from a personal perspective, real-world examples of inclusiveness and its impact on a situation, and planning toward solutions and efforts that drive curriculum.
“During my ten years as a member of the Brandman University community, I have yet to see such an inspiring collection of shared wisdom, cross-disciplinary cohesion, selfless discussion, awareness building and purposeful listening, among our peers (while outside of the classroom environment), as I did during our first Forum on Diversity and Inclusiveness,” said Johnson, who facilitated the event.
“It is very easy (and often comfortable) to remain in a silo without challenging our biases and comfort levels. Today, we began a discussion and took a powerful step towards challenging assumptions. I look forward to our continued goal setting and action towards positive and inclusive next steps.”
The voluntary event was held just before the start of the spring faculty retreat to give those who work at remote campuses a chance to attend in person.
“This was a was powerful experience! I saw humanity and felt the compassion in the voices of my colleagues. By the end of the session, there was a shift in the room, that moved towards the opportunity for change to occur,” said Castillo.