DEI Spotlight: December 2020
December 10, 2020
The Office of Equality and Diversity proudly presents our new monthly feature: DEI Spotlight. Each month, we will recognize different individuals and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committees across campus for their work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Drexel. In this inaugural edition, we are spotlighting: Veronica Carey, Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the College of Nursing and Health Professions; Bernetta Millonde, Director of Diversity Initiatives & Community Relations for Undergraduate Admissions, Enrollment Management & Student Success; Shell Myers, Administrative Coordinator of the Art & Art History Department in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design; and Rebecca Weidensaul, Assistant Vice President for Inter-College Advising & Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS). We asked our featured colleagues to share details about their role and accomplishments, as well as what motivates their DEI work.
As Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, it is so important to offer definitions to the terms that often make for descension and bias in the academic environment. Daily, I must educate our stakeholders that equity does not mean fairness; that is the wrong "F" word. The "F" word is function. How can two parties that are opposing or antithetical come together and still function in the environment seeking to eradicate racism but is not too far ahead of the starting line? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." As chair of the Board of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the time for silence is gone; it is more than time for the uncomfortable conversations. I am proud to have offered several opportunities, to faculty, professional staff, and students, to engage in the conversations of their lives. We owe it to our graduates.
Assisting CNHP faculty, professional staff, and students to realize how each person impacts the other is very important to assert. It is so important to talk to each other and not at each other. From an academic posture, I want students to enter their fields of choice armed with the experiences of increased cultural awareness to be the best all-around practitioner possible. Unconscious prejudices can manifest as racist actions. Engage, engage, engage; seek to engage persons who differ in sexual orientation to yourself; engage persons older than yourself; engage individuals who are dissimilar in culture and race. In other words, I want students to be anti-racists in my absence. This motivates me to create Tuesday Topics (lunch and learn sessions), and it motivates me to educate daily asking, "What do you see when you see persons dissimilar to yourself?" I hope to see an anti-racist CNHP.
I am inspired by the Marianne Williamson poem, Our Deepest Fear. The line that resonates in my soul is "your playing small doesn't serve the world." Although most of us will never speak before large audiences on a national platform or be a paid influencer on social media, we are all purposed and gifted to make a difference. I was well into my adulthood before I was comfortable enough in my own skin to take up the space I was given access to, use my voice to advance a cause, and to walk in and live out purpose.
I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants. As an African American woman, a first-generation college student, and a college administrator, I am keenly aware that the privileges I have are because of the courage, sacrifices, and dignity of my people who preceded me. My people who survived the Middle Passage and slavery; my people who rose to national prominence as civil rights leaders and freedom fighters during the 1950s and 1960s; and my people, my family, my mentors who guided me, encouraged me, and affectionately corrected me when I needed it.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I attended Public Schools (PS) 125, PS 327, and PS 275, before my parents moved us to Roosevelt, Long Island where I graduated from Roosevelt Junior / Senior High School. I did not attend the best resourced schools; but I was fortunate to have a family and teachers who had high expectations of me. It is this upbringing, this value system, this way of relating to students, that allows me to live and work authentically as Director for Diversity Initiatives and Community Partners at Drexel University.
I left my predominately African American community and decided to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I survived my time at VCU and what I learned in and out of the classroom has served me well. Now, it is my turn, my time to assure the next generation of historically underrepresented students who are often marginalized by some, students who identify as I do, know earlier in their lives that they are purposed, their goal should be to thrive at a PWI and not merely survive, that they earned their seat at Drexel and "your playing small doesn’t serve the world."
As Director for Diversity Initiatives and Community Relations in the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship, a division of EMSS, I am purposed to help students do more than survive at Drexel. Using a holistic, student-centered approach to recruitment and retention, my commitment is to help students thrive. I've come full circle and I'm both honored and humbled to have been entrusted to collaborate with community partners and colleagues on pre-college access programming like CAPTIVATE 6.7.8 and the STEM Conference for Young Women; to leading THRIVE: Early Move-in Empowerment Retreat for Students of Color; to shepherding the Liberty Scholars through Drexel; and to support the other scholars we serve in the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship.
I am the Administrative Coordinator of the Art & Art History Department in Westphal College and a Masters in Family Therapy student in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. I am a student member the Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CNHP, and I am a staff member of the Westphal College Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. I provide LGBTQ+ ally trainings for the Office of Equality and Diversity.
I do the LGBTQ+ ally trainings for OED because I honestly really enjoy doing them. I love having conversations about gender and sexuality with people because I think those conversations can help build relationships and foster self-exploration. I think about how people have so many different experiences of gender based on intersectional identities, culture, and their families and communities. I'm motivated to take proactive steps that inspire people to be curious about each other and themselves.
I have been overseeing the Office of Veteran Student Services (OVSS) since 2011, coordinating a campus-wide effort to ensure that student-veterans and military dependents can access high-quality campus services with ease. I chair the Veterans Task Force, which is comprised of members from most offices on campus, and our goal is to create a truly military-friendly campus community through our welcoming and well-informed and resourced infrastructure. Since 2009, Drexel has participated in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which has offered educational benefits to thousands of military-affiliated students after service; this is a significant financial commitment on the part of the University and well utilized by the talented student-veterans and military dependents who are learning, working and living their Dragon Mission! I am so proud of all the accomplishments we have made to support our military-affiliated students from Welcome Week to Graduation, and especially the Masci Family Veterans Lounge and the Student Veteran Ambassadors program that offers peer support and leadership opportunities within the community. We have also developed a number of traditions over the years that bring the community together, including patriotic holidays, Veteran appreciation events, career and professional development opportunities as well has social gatherings like homecoming and alumni weekend. In addition, I have enjoyed working with OED to launch the Veterans Colleague Resource Group, which has been a wonderful way for faculty and staff to be involved and help with Green Zone Trainings for their peers along with mentoring student-veterans. Finally, I am very grateful to have the support of our alumni veterans and dependents who have created a continued network to help each other and continue to mentor the incoming students; the Drexel Veterans Alumni Network, Drexel Veterans Association and the emerging Military Families and Friends groups are what make this institution truly military-friendly.
I truly believe in meeting students where they are and building infrastructures of support and physical spaces for student communities to support them authentically. Throughout my career I have watched individual students grow and bloom amongst genuinely connected peers who were supported by professional staff and faculty who were there to support them. We were able to do this with Athletes, LGBTQA students, Multicultural students, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and other spiritually engaged students and now with our Veterans. This has been truly rewarding work for me to work with our military-affiliated students and has given me the chance to meet extraordinary people to achieve our mutual goals in support of students. I come from a family that has served in the military and truly appreciate service to this nation. What truly motivates me is giving our students the "homebase" they need to feel supported so they can live out their dreams, exercise their talents and create great memories of their experiences at Drexel. My hope is that our student-veterans will be proud of their education and continue to stay in touch while doing great things in their next mission in the civilian world. Their loyalty and pride motivates me every day… we are Dragons, after all!