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Diversity director encourages inclusion

| Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, presented to leaders and volunteers from nonprofit organizations Tuesday as part of the University’s Nonprofit Breakfast Series. The series, presented by the University’s Office of Public Affairs and the Mendoza College of Business, is designed to help nonprofit organizations learn from human resource experts to better manage employees.

Love’s presentation was the third in the four-part series and focused on the benefits of diversity and how to better serve all constituents.

“Inclusion is what we do with diversity,” he said. “If we really value diversity, if we really think it’s important, that inclusion is so important. We can only get the benefits of diversity if we give each other a voice and allow them to speak and share their perspective.

“So together, diversity and inclusion are policies and practices of inclusion that promote understanding of cultural differences and encourage cooperation across the boundaries of diverse co-workers.”

The benefits of diversity, according to Love, include enhanced critical and complex thinking, greater academic and work success and “greater engagement in the lifelong learning of understanding people and cultures in order to develop a more democratic community and equitable society.”

“When we start working with people who are different from us, we start to care about them, we care about their communities,” he said. “We start to care about other communities outside of our own.”

The first step to becoming more inclusive, Love said, is to focus on yourself.

“I strongly believe awareness is the first step — the more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more comfortable we are with other people,” he said. “If you know who you are, it doesn’t really matter who someone else is, because you’re secure with yourself. You’re comfortable with whoever else someone might be.”

When addressing organizations, Love said leaders should aspire to be “multiculturally competent.”

“An organization is multiculturally competent when its members, majority and minority, have knowledge of, respect for and the skills necessary to interact with people from other cultures, within an international and domestic context,” he said.

When striving for multicultural competency, Love said microaggressions, which he defined as “brief and commonplace” indignities that communicate “hostile or negative slights or insults,” are a crucial part of communication to be aware of.

“They are reminders that recipients are not in the majority,” he said. “They can happen to women, to people of color, to people with disabilities and they add up to a pattern of exclusion. One microaggression is like a paper cut — it might sting a little bit, but ultimately it’s not that big of a deal. But multiple microaggressions every day, every week, over time can really start to add up.”

While it is important to be inclusive, the fear of “saying something wrong” shouldn’t prevent important conversations from happening or questions from being asked, Love said.

“Political correctness had noble intentions and it started to get us communicating in a more civil way,” he said. “But terminology changes and it can be hard to keep up. We all make mistakes; I’m the diversity guy and I make mistakes.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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