by Anna Bentley
As we shared in a fall 2021 article, our team is committed to finding ways to engage with the Division of Student Affairs Strategic Priority. Over the past year, we have explored how equity intersects with a variety of topics: neurodiversity; leadership practices; decision-making; the concept of merit; recruitment and hiring; and research, literature, and theory. Below, you’ll find a collection of readings and resources that particularly resonated with Academic Success Center & Writing Center staff.
I was struck by “How to be an Antiracist Supervisor: Start with Changing What you Call Yourself” by Kim-Monique Johnson and how much is wrapped up in the language we use. While I haven’t identified a new title for myself yet, this reading helped me intentionally reflect on some of my leadership practices and think about how I could work toward a healthier work culture. This article is a good introduction for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of our workforce, rethink power structures, and move toward centering the well-being of employees.
For our Strategic Priority conversations on neurodiversity, I particularly enjoyed the reading “Just a Unicorn” from The Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity (Valley Library; OU Libraries Open Access). Featuring poems written by neurodiverse individuals, the reading enabled me to better understand their experiences through the use of simile and metaphor. I also appreciated how the poems dealt with the intersectionality of neurodiversity and other aspects of identity like race, gender, and immigration status. I would recommend this short, easy-to-read, open-access poetry collection to anyone interested in immersing themselves in the sensory and emotional world of neurodiverse individuals, if only for a few brief moments.
Before reading The Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide by Creative Reaction Lab, I didn’t see myself as someone with the power to enact change, so I had never taken responsibility for how I unwittingly upheld systems. Having worked in a variety of administrative support roles, I saw my supervisors and higher ups as the ones with all the power making all the decisions, not me. This field guide taught me that we are all designers because we are constantly making decisions, big and small, that impact others. I especially appreciate the example scenarios and sample activities that illustrate how we can work together to create more equitable systems.
A reading that resonated for me was the Equity-Minded Decision-Making Guide from Achieving the Dream. We engaged with the guide during exploration of work culture and decision-making. This guide was a helpful starting point for considering context within a decision, as well as how equity relates to that context. The guide also offers questions for evaluating options when making a decision and strategies for engaging others in the decision-making. As I worked to intentionally develop my approach to decision-making, the guide helped me plan for how I could prioritize equity both in the decision itself and in the process of arriving at the decision.
One of the most meaningful readings I was able to engage with this past term was “The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement” by Shawn Ginwright, Ph.D. I really appreciated that Ginwright was able to address the nuanced nature of collective trauma and marginalized identity, while also suggesting many concrete strategies for how to empower people at the individual and community levels. Engaging with imaginative, empathetic, and community-based practices were all helpful reminders as we work to address collective trauma.
A reading that stands out for me is “Dis/ability Critical Race Studies (Discrit): Theorizing at the Intersections of Race and Dis/ability” by Subini Ancy Annamma, David Connor, and Beth Ferri (Valley Library; Research Gate). As we have spent the last few years thinking about the ways that we can better support students, I find myself often thinking about the way the term “normal” has been defined, for me, by my body and the privileges I have. The tenets of DisCrit, as laid out in the article, have been invaluable in conversations on merit, supporting underrepresented students, designing spaces to be inclusive, and many other places.
I enjoyed exploring Critical Supervision for the Human Services (Noble, Gray, Johnston), in particular, Chapter 8: Practice Fundamentals (Valley Library; Publisher). There is a lot of emphasis in this text on the relationship between a supervisor and the person they supervise – the structure in which they interact, the dynamic of their interactions, and the degree to which those elements are discussed intentionally. I found it helpful to see some of the recommended conversations and topics for discussion, and appreciated the invitation to manage my own schedule in a way that creates more time for relationship development.
Much of my supervision/leadership experience has been informed by my experience of being supervised/led. And there’s much to take away from those experiences! At the same time, it’s been so helpful these last months to draw strategies and approaches from readings and conversations to practice in my work and learning around supporting others. Ultimately, it was the many different readings and how they talked to each other and to me that has felt most helpful, but two that stand out are chapter 5 of Mutual Aid by Dean Spade (Valley Library; Publisher) and The Future of Healing, by Dr. Shawn Ginwright. These have emphasized for me the value of relationship building, its continual process and how much it can benefit from intentionality.
One of our Strategic Priority projects focused on how we recruit and hire student staff, a process highly influenced by OSU’s Search Advocate program. During our Strategic Priority work, we engaged in learning activities around equity in recruitment and hiring of student staff, then examined our own practices to determine where we are enacting our values around equity and inclusion and where we could do a better job. For me personally, this learning process encouraged me to think carefully about students’ entry points to our Writing Center’s consultant positions, about who sees themselves as potential writing consultants, who we’re inviting to apply, how we’re engaging in the interview process, who we’re selecting for next stages of the hiring process, and so on. The learning process tested twenty years’ worth of assumptions I held about how best to recruit and hire peer writing consultants.