Student Life held its second Diversity Matters Lunch and Learn series which aims to increase staff members' cultural understanding and the benefits of diversity and inclusion at USC.
Kimberly Seibles, the associate director of diversity and social justice education, leads the program.
“My idea is to really make it a roundtable discussion guided by different questions or facts to help lead and guide discussion,” Seibles said.
This series was first implemented by the Office of Multicultural Affairs during the 2019 spring semester and is geared towards staff members in Student Affairs.
Megan Colascione, assessment director for the Department of Student Life, said the first session pushed members of the Student Life faculty to think outside of their normal thought process.
“Getting out of our normal wheels, per se, of the day-to-day and really making sure that everything is very intentional and focused to enhance the student experience and make it connected to topics or programs, services or initiatives that actually benefit students in some way,” Colascione said.
The series works to promote conversations that stimulate more real-life discussions among Student Life staff on issues or problems that students encounter relating to diversity and inclusion on campus.
“Since we see students outside the classroom where they spend pretty much most of their time, it's important, especially as we look at things from funding to support, mental health, their physical well-being, just looking at the holistic students outside of the spirit of academia,” Seibles said.
The first session started out with a budgeting exercise aimed to bring awareness to personal budgeting and give Student Life faculty a basis to relate to student finances. Julian Capel, the student and community outreach director, said he was reminded of the potential financial issues that students could be facing.
“In most cases, people get in the routine of just going to work and paying bills and rarely take the time to analyze exactly where the money is going,” Capel said in an email.
Colascione said class and affordability is a topic individuals involved in higher education should discuss and be aware about.
“This whole workshop was important for everyone in higher ed to be able to go through to really have kind of that empathy and understanding built to understand where our students are coming from and what their lifestyle might be when they enter college and what they’re going through,” Colascione said.
Colascione said she likes to keep these ideas of diversity and inclusion in her mind through the day as she works with students and liked how the workshop addressed the importance of seeing issues through the eyes of students and questioned the reasoning behind certain issues that students face.
“It's a good refocus for professionals and for different units in our department to really sit back and think about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and really dive into the why this matters for each student on campus or the experience that they’re having,” Colascione said.
Future topics include disability awareness and what it’s like to be a disabled person on campus, pronouns and why they are important and the respecting people who are a part of different groups, such as different races and socioeconomic statuses.
“We have a wide variety of students on campus who identify with different social identities and I think in order for us to best support these students throughout their time at USC, it’s important for us staff to have these conversations,” Seibles said.