In the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, it is vital that we perceive ourselves, and others, through an intersectional lens. Intersectionality a theoretical framework for understanding how facets of an individual’s identity, such as race, ability, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, sexuality, and gender, converge to create unique experiences of oppression, privilege, prejudice, and discrimination. Understanding intersectionality is not only essential in gaining a concrete understanding of ourselves, privileges, and our positionality, but also in understanding others - where they are coming from and where they are going.
Recently, in addition to discussing diversity and inclusion, we talked to two Elon University students, John and Rachel, in order to see how intersectionality is ingrained in their lives, jobs, and the college visit process!
What aspects of intersectionality are rooted in the college visit process? How do they aid in recruiting diverse students and/or expanding the conception of diversity and inclusion at Elon?
“As a young, black teenager touring college campuses, something that was important to me was being able to visually see people around campus that looked like me. When I toured Elon for the first time, I had two tour guides. One was a white female and the other was a black male. I felt as though they were able to answer my questions from both the perspective of a female on campus but also as a black student on campus. This may seem like a small aspect, but at many of the schools that I toured I would often have a tour guide that did not share any of the same identities as me. Visual representation is incredibly important when making the decisions of where to spend your next four formative years.
Even after making my decision to go to Elon, I was invited to spend the weekend on campus for Phoenix Fusion, an overnight admitted diverse student weekend. This allowed me to not only meet and connect with current students, but also meet other diverse students that would soon be my peers. This overnight visit made transitioning to life at Elon even smoother because I kept in contact with the students I met at Phoenix Fusion.”- Rachel
“Hello! My name is John Ambrose and I am a rising junior at Elon University and work as the Diversity Recruitment Intern for the admissions department. I am a true believer that intersectionality is vital to the admissions process. Intersectionality means looking at everything that makes a person rather than one single aspect. People are made up of different identities that together create how they live their lives. It would be an inaccurate representation of who someone is if we judged them based on one of their identities instead of all of them - as no one is defined by a single story.
One of the largest goals in admissions is to form a community on a college campus, a place where all students can feel welcomed, understood, and free to be themselves.
Intersectionality plays a huge role in creating this environment for students. Finding people who can bring diverse identities and ideas to the table helps create an atmosphere of change and growth on campus. However, that begs the question: how do you recruit a more diverse population? If the desire is to recruit a more diverse population, education is a great place to start. Tour guides and admissions counselors need to be culturally competent people in order to connect with the hundreds of diverse students they meet.”
How does Elon cater to individual diversities in, and outside of, the college visit process?
“Elon does a phenomenal job of bringing speakers from different fields to campus. Students have the opportunity to attend these speakers free of cost and oftentimes classes require you to go to a certain number of speakers a semester; which pushes students to learn from individuals outside of their immediate circle. During my time as an Elon student, I had the opportunity to attend workshops, hear from speakers, and learn in classrooms that exposed me to every aspect of diversity. At Intersect, a diversity conference held on Elon’s campus, I was able to learn about different cultures and understand others’ identities.
“In classrooms, I was able to read literature from diverse authors and discuss the content with my peers. It was in these discussions that I was truly able to understand perspectives. Everyone in my class had a different upbringing, came from a different part of the country or world, and had insight into how they understood the readings at hand. Additionally, many Elon students, including myself, had the opportunity to study abroad. I studied abroad in Denmark. While there, Denmark was my home, but Europe was my classroom. I traveled to 11 different countries, toured museums, visited historical landmarks, spoke to locals, and had an internship which enabled me to have an understanding of differences among various aspects of cultures. I think study abroad is a wonderful way to understand empathy. We must understand empathy to truly value diversity.”- Rachel
“Two Elon Alumna, Jordan Vaughn and Ari Payne, created the Elon Passport, a great way to ensure guides are aware of the many different identities one could have. The passport assisted students in finding different events on campus to help boost their cultural competence. It required tour guides to go to places like the Gender and LGBTQIA+ Center and Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education; which exposed the guides to different cultures and identities. This is just one of the ways the Elon admissions department strives to insert intersectionality into everything they do.”