On Martin Luther King Jr Day ON!, Heidelberg University came together to take a hard look at diversity, equity and inclusion on campus – what it means to various individuals and groups and how to keep moving forward as a community with meaningful initiatives toward creating a sense of belonging for everyone.
Throughout the day, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee scheduled events that included community service both on and off campus, a meet-and-greet with engaging activities with new Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging Aaron Nelson, and workshops for students in the morning and faculty and staff in the afternoon.
Alumnus Joe Worthy ’08, a community builder by trade who currently serves as the chief of staff for The Lighthouse ꓲ Black Girl Project, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, returned to campus to guide students, faculty and staff through the workshops.
Drawing from a couple of surveys and a Crucial Conversations exercise, Joe walked both groups through a series of activities designed to evaluate feelings about the campus environment as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, and then offer suggestions for continued growth.
“What I saw today was a community coming together and doing the hard work when no one’s watching,” Joe said.
He met with about 50 students in the morning to begin the discussion about “building the world you want to see at Heidelberg.” After pushing them to really think and speak their minds, ultimately the students assessed the current campus environment from their perspectives and defined the foundations they need to feel included, safe and part of the community.
“We’re not just here for your opinions,” Joe told the students. “We intend to take them and put them into action.”
For the afternoon session, faculty and staff – who share some similar ideas with the students and have some of their own -- built upon the students’ ideas with some additional action steps.
Both groups highlighted the desire for shared responsibility, accountability, increased awareness and space for growth on the path to strengthening the foundation. Calling on the overarching theme of community, Joe summarized that being a part of a community means feeling listened to, valued, respected, trusted, supported and connected. All of these lead to feelings of safety and being safe and included.
To conclude the workshop, faculty and staff developed an Impact / Effort matrix for moving forward and identified resources needed to continue making progress.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” Joe told them. “We all just have to commit to seeing it through.”