The Opportunity for Inclusion

Perspective: Why supporting inclusivity is a priority

Scott Blair,

Being born and raised in Venezuela, and then at an early age relocating to my father’s home in northeastern Pennsylvania, I was made painfully aware of my own “diversity.” They were tough times. My self-worth became fragile and my personal development slowed as the world of assimilation began stripping me of my identity. 

My diversity, that in which I looked different because of my ethnicity and sounded different because I was Spanish speaking, is not a story unlike many within our community. Variables can be interchanged with respect to religion, sexual orientation and the like, but our challenges are of the same spirit. 

Not totally understanding motivations for why people would feel compelled to label others, like I was labeled, fueled my passion for education. Along the way, the national climate has begun to change and instead of residing in a territory of assimilation, we have begun to grow as a culture of inclusion and acceptance. 

With this re-focusing, we have seen growth in higher education of students of color, women in STEM and an increase in our LGBT communities as well, just to name a few. During this journey, we as inclusivity practitioners continued to advocate on the need for our institutions to advance beyond simply having diverse campuses and to move toward creating institutions that leverage those differences in intentional, inclusive ways. 

Discussions now are directly aimed at exploring ways to support that inclusivity with programs such as pre-orientation initiatives to assist students with transitioning to college, student affinity groups to provide spaces for students from underrepresented populations to come together, and creation of campus diversity committees to proactively discuss strategies to expand on inclusion efforts. 

At Northampton Community College, this work is a priority. As the college’s inaugural chief diversity officer, it is my honor and privilege to work with students, faculty, staff and administrators to enhance our efforts in the arena of inclusion. To achieve this goal, NCC became one of 10 colleges and universities across the country receiving funding support from the Lumina Foundation to participate in an eight-week Equity Institute directed by the nationally recognized Race and Equity Centers at the University of Southern California. 

By participating in the Equity Institute, under the leadership of nationally acclaimed educator and inclusion expert Dr. Shaun Harper, NCC is doubling down on the need to understand how to embed the work of inclusion at all levels of our institution. Leveraging our efforts at NCC allows us as educators to better prepare our students to succeed in an even more global society.

Inclusive excellence is the right thing for our campus because it is our responsibility to support all of our students, regardless of what background or experiences they may or may not have. Continuing to improve our commitment to inclusion will position us in unique ways that can serve as a model for other institutions as well. 

Inclusion work is unchartered territory, and together we need to continue to build upon a college experience that prepares our students for success in and out of the classroom. Inclusion is the heartbeat that will mobilize our Spartan community for unparalleled success for years to come.

[Published in the Summer 2019 Northampton Community College Magazine.]