Developing Diversity: Diversity training specialist marks her first year

Jocelyn Santana has had a busy year, but she’s just getting started.

Santana spent nine years working in NIU Career Services before transitioning last February to the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, where she is the first person to hold the role of training and development specialist. It is Santana’s responsibility to develop diversity education programs for NIU students, faculty and staff.

thumbnail-55In shaping her role, she said she looked to the vision of the administrators who created the position, her own experience and to Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Diversity Vernese Edghill-Walden’s diversity plan for the university.

“This past year, we have worked with many campus partners to continue supporting our community,” Santana said.

She has conducted diversity workshops for students in residence halls, classrooms and student organizations. A student-conduct education workshop for staff and adjudicators introduced her to a number of faculty and staff who invited her to their colleges and departments to conduct further training.

None of the workshops are cookie-cutter. Santana said when a workshop is requested she starts by investigating the audience and needs so she can create an appropriate curriculum.

“Sometimes we may discuss the impact of microaggressions,” she said. “We may also work on raising self-awareness and developing understanding about oppression.

“Sometimes it’s about raising self-awareness and developing understanding about power and privilege,” she continued. “Often, learning takes place through exercises that facilitate an understanding and discussion around personal experiences.”

Last year, Santana revamped a program customized to students who want to pursue social justice work as a career. The program, Conversations on Diversity+Equity (CODE), supports growth and an understanding of self and others. She is currently working on a curriculum for employees sparked by a retreat last semester for faculty and staff who actively advocate for equity and inclusivity throughout campus. She hopes to continue workshops this semester using the new curriculum. She also has a goal to do more work this year with student organizations.

“Sometimes it feels like ‘diversity’ is just a buzzword, and that dilutes the power of it,” she said. “I’d like to encourage our community to commit to engaging in the actual work of awareness and inclusivity and to encourage people to not be afraid to connect and talk, because that is how we will move forward.”

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