Seeking Professional Opportunities outside Your Comfort Zone: One Higher Education Professional Says It's Not Easy Working at an Institution That's Not Diverse, but That There Can Be Benefits

By Jimison, Sylvia | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, June 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Seeking Professional Opportunities outside Your Comfort Zone: One Higher Education Professional Says It's Not Easy Working at an Institution That's Not Diverse, but That There Can Be Benefits


Jimison, Sylvia, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


But as I read articles from and about colleges and universities looking to diversify not only their student bodies, but also their faculty and staff, this did not seem to be the reality on the ground.

Initially, when I would show up for interviews, the interviewers seemed shocked to learn that I was Black. So I decided to make my ethnicity clear on my resume. I believed that by doing so I would know whether an employer was serious about interviewing diverse candidates.

I got my first break at Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts, where I was hired as the director for the TRIO Student Support Services Program (SSSP).

I'll admit, as a person of color, that it was not easy working at an institution that was not diverse. I often felt isolated. As the only Black woman in a management position at the college at the time, I never quite felt accepted in my work environment.

I never served on any search committees unless it was a search for my own department. I was never involved in any faculty meetings, although the services provided by the SSSP are often impacted by what happens in the classroom. I also applied to become an adjunct, to no avail. I did make my colleagues aware that I wanted to take part in all of these areas of the college.

I value our educational system and believe everyone has something to teach and something to learn. But I also believe that if there is an absence of color, meaning diversity, there is an absence of learning. Learning involves all people, all cultures and all ethnic groups. This world is large, and a classroom is where some of the best learning takes place. For some, the classroom is a safe place to challenge and examine one's belief system.

Learning also takes place in senior staff meetings where important decisions are made that impact the institution. I was not always a part of these meetings. If the appropriate employee(s) of color are not pre sent at these meetings, this too can impact the institution.

Though uncomfortable at times, I tried to make the best of my situation. I attended community meetings, such as the Human Rights Commission, and volunteered to help at various college events. …

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