Six and a half years ago when I first began my journey at Chapman University, I learned about an initiative that reignited my passion for community and advocacy work – the Chapman Diversity Project.
As I reflected on the privilege that I inherently have as a white cisgender woman, I knew I wanted to do what I could to amplify the voices of those who may otherwise be ignored or silenced. The Chapman Diversity Project gave me an opportunity to do that.
In the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of chairing the Advisory Group on the Status of Socio-economic Stratification, serving as a Faculty and Staff Trainer for LGBTQIA+ Safe Space and co-chairing the Advisory Group on the Status of Women.
What I learned through each of these groups is that at the core of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work is an uncompromising focus on listening to the needs of all.
Today, as vice president of community relations, I’m guided by that same principle. As I’ve continued my work in community relations, I’ve learned that when it comes to creating equitable spaces, community input is key. As higher education institutions, we tend to exhibit a savior complex. We assume that having advanced degrees automatically equates to knowing what’s best for the communities that surround us. It’s important, however, to stop and listen to the people who are living and working in these communities. It’s important to allow their experiences and viewpoints to inform the work we do in those spaces.
The City of Orange and its surrounding communities are such vibrant and diverse places with incredible histories. Not only do we have historic buildings and homes that we work to preserve, but just adjacent to our campus is also the Cypress Street Barrio, filled with the beautiful culture of the Latinx/Latine communities. As the Office of Community Relations, our strategic priority is to immerse our university in the richness of these histories and cultures, while also taking on projects that will make the greatest impact in our local communities and support the work already underway in these neighborhoods.
As the work of DEI on our campus continues to evolve, the Office of Community Relations is excited to continue doing what it takes to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected, both inside and outside of the university, and that everyone has an equitable platform to share that voice.