Re-framing Diversity Experience

  • Serjio Acevedo Facilitating Cultural Simulation - Ba Fa Ba Fa with Whittier College Student Government and Resident Assistants - January 2016

Once when I was prepared for job interviews I tried to identify examples of my competency with diversity and working with diverse populations (I am a advocate of Targeted Selection, Behavioral Based Interviewing due to the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior or the S.T.A.R. Method where a specific Situation/Task, the Actions taken, and Results are shared). I came to a realization that many of my examples are not relational or programmatic which are “typical”. Reflecting on this I began to feel inadequate in this area. I am not an activist. I am not very vocal about my passion for diversity. I do celebrate diversity. I do find points of commonality rather than points of debate or contention #Harmony (a reference to the StrengthFinder™ theme). I don’t usually engage in deep conversations about identity, diversity, or activism. If anything I shy away from these topics so how could I convince an interview panel that I was competent in this area? 

Then a colleague/new student affairs professional asked me to share some of my insights on using assessment for diversity programming.  By talking to this colleague about my assessment efforts I realized that I infused a culture of diversity into the student government in which I advise. After 4 years under my advisement the student government leaders now think more intentionally about who serves on the senate, how things are funded, and how consistent and transparent their procedures are. I had helped the organization grow by focusing my efforts on and working closely with their leadership – the executive board. I did team builders such as the “close the circle(This may also be referred to as “the step in circle” activity however not everyone has the same mobility so the name and prompts were changed to be even more inclusive) at their retreats. I recommended the senate bring in guest facilitator/trainer (a former colleague of mine, Serjio Acevedo) to do Intercultural Competence Inventory (IDI) with the senators. The entire senate also engaged in the cultural simulation BaFa BaFa along with the Resident Assistants (this joint training was a first for the institution). I infused a diversity perspective and mindfulness in small incremental ways that made a domino effect impact that would be difficult from an outsiders perspective to pin point that it was due to my advisement. 

In the fight towards diversity awareness my style is to be behind the scenes like the Wizard of Oz helping students realize that they have what they need all along I simply provided a push, a space, an opportunity to realize their potential.  The assessment examples I provided my colleague helped me realize a few things about my biggest examples of championing diversity:

  • I infuse diversity in the culture of the organization/environment in which I am working or advising
  • I go about creating change by offering perspectives and that type of facilitate takes time therefore is difficult to sum up into one encounter/STAR example
  • I embrace the acquisition of knowledge
  • I promote inclusive language (such as not addressing a group of people as guys)
  • I acknowledge when and where I fall short but that does not serve as an excuse for me not to keep trying and not to keep encouraging others to do better and to learn from my mistakes

Sometimes the examples are more subtle, passive, systemic, and long-term then programs, interactions, or relationships. In the end I realized that I wasn’t being inclusive to my own diversity experience and in so doing I was short changing my competency and those that I have impacted.

So, I dedicate this post to all those professionals preparing for interviews and thinking about how to convey their diversity experiences and competency in this area. Let’s expand the perception of how this can be communicated and evaluated.

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