By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend portions of UW–Madison’s 2022 Diversity Forum. One of the offerings that most stuck out to me was the panel discussion entitled “Laying the Groundwork for Brighter Futures: Pathways to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Administration”. The topics the panel covered got me thinking that fostering an environment of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is not just about training in specific issues pertaining to diversity, though these are also critical components that I absolutely encourage you to pursue. But more broadly, the ability to do this necessary work that implicates us all comes from some wider-ranging skills that we can hone in a variety of ways as graduate students.
Here are some of the skills the panelists offered as especially important, and some ways you can work to develop them:
- Ability to investigate and problem solve: The ability to ask questions, investigate, and problem solve is essential in work that often involves conflict, misunderstanding, and undereducation, which is frequently the case in DEIB work. If you feel that problem solving isn’t your strong suit, take a moment to review this page on the Problem Solving Process from the Global Development Research Center.
- Ability to work well with people: This was brought up a number of times – the essence of DEIB work is bringing people together and understanding that different approaches are needed to work with different people. Stretching beyond just the ability to communicate effectively, the topic of being able to communicate things with people in positions of power that they do not want to hear was also mentioned as especially important, something we as graduate students can practice in our communications with our advisors and supervisors.
- Ability to self-evaluate: When you are leading and engaging people in the creation and maintaining of an inclusive environment, it requires the ability to recognize your own blind spots and areas for improvement. While this Self-Assessment Booklet from Leadership@UW focuses a little bit more broadly, it is an excellent resource for getting in the habit and building the deceptively difficult skill of self-assessment.
Members of the “Laying the Groundwork for Brighter Futures: Pathways to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Administration” panel were:
- Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, associate dean for diversity and equity transformation in the School of Medicine and Public Health
- Catherine Chan, assistant vice provost for high impact practices in the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement
- Raul Leon, assistant vice provost for student engagement and scholarship programs in the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement
- Michael J. States, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion of the Law School
- DeVon Wilson, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College of Letters & Science
Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.