Field Notes: The five words that can transform your commitment to inclusion

June 4, 2018
  • Competencies
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • field notes
GettyImages-829910684 "Field Notes" is a regular Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at connect@aacrao.org.

by Amy E. Harth, MH, Research Analyst at DeVry University

Admissions and registrar colleagues recognize that students have different needs and desires. Our roles require us to understand the importance of diverse perspectives.

Participating in accreditation processes can enhance that understanding, as can initiatives that help us recognize and celebrate diversity. The confluence of university accreditation and diversity initiatives in my life has helped me observe certain trends that apply to individual interactions and to the development of higher functioning departments, such as:

Diversity isn't inclusion

Some colleges are highly diverse, attracting students, staff, and community members with widely different backgrounds and experiences. Yet being there doesn't mean everyone feels welcome or appreciated. Inclusion has often meant that people have felt comfortable because groups are homogeneous. Diversity is not a burden but something to celebrate. As colleges recognize the need for efforts to celebrate what we use to form our identities, they must be careful to ensure these celebrations feel genuine. And we must not stop there. Inclusion is not limited to a certain holiday. It is a conscious part of our daily lives. It is a commitment to doing better. 

Grow from your strengths
Committing to doing better is a foundational principle for educators. Yet many people feel concern as part of the accreditation process when confronted by the idea of continuous improvement. Learning and growing are at our core. We should fear having no room to grow more than we fear the opportunity to continue enhancing our strengths. Knowing your strengths and continuously developing them sets you on the path to shine. Developing from a strength is empowering to  colleges, students, colleagues and the community.

"I'm sorry. I'll do better." 

5 important words
When each of us commits to developing as an individual, we demonstrate openness to feedback when we aren't being inclusive. And we can offer those who have been excluded five transformative words: "I'm sorry. I'll do better." 

Imagine a time when you didn't feel welcome or included. How did it feel? Now imagine telling someone and their response is: "I'm sorry. I'll do better." Does it feel validating? Do you feel hope that it will be different next time? 

When we accept responsibility for our actions and commit to doing better, we empower ourselves to create an inclusive environment. We help transform a situation from one that usually results in defensiveness and excuses to one that validates feelings and holds the promise of healing division. 

Our dedication to quality and continuous improvement must be deep. We must be committed to delivering on this hope. 

Individual vs. Collective
Our commitment to individuals is not that different from our commitment to groups. Some admissions and registrar colleagues do not interact with many students, colleagues or community members directly. It might be difficult to see the impact of our work as fostering inclusion. However, our dedication to equitable registration processes, to accessible web applications, and to many other ways of ensuring the people we serve not only have what they need but also feel and are welcome is our opportunity to demonstrate that we listen and then do better.