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Winter 2020

Illustration of graduates with colorful puzzle pieces

Illustration: Simone Massoni

100 Reasons to Love the Ed School: A Special Centennial Issue

#83: Because Belonging Matters

This academic year, we’ve shifted the way in which we’re approaching diversity here at HGSE. We’ve intentionally put a focus on belonging. I truly believe that we will not have a diverse and inclusive community if there are people who don’t feel as if they belong. Recently, I came across a Harvard Business Review piece that rang true for me and reinforced my line of thinking. The author stated that organizations need to understand that diversity and inclusion alone isn’t enough, and the mentality of “checking boxes” for diversity isn’t sufficient. People need to feel recognized and have the opportunity to make contributions. In summary, they need to feel a sense of belonging.

In most organizations, the strategic plan for diversity is bringing in a diversity of people who differ racially. The Ed School has historically made great strides in this category of diversity. In 2017, the school became a plurality of racial representation with no single demographic category making up most of the student body. This transition, to a school where an ever-growing number of students of color call home, speaks to the success of HGSE in its commitment to diversity.

In parallel to the growth in diversity in the student body, the racial representation of staff members here at the Ed School has shifted toward an ever more diverse collective of administrators, support staff, educators, and other individuals essential to the day-to-day operation of the school. It has been a long, arduous process, but there is no doubt that we are committed to racial diversity if you look at these numbers.

As we continue to collect data and put an emphasis on other marginalized identities, it’s important that we think about how we are welcoming new members to the community. For example, gender and disability are two categories that we’ve been intentionally thinking about. We know it’s important for us to think about how we’ve designed our spaces, curriculum, policies, and community norms to foster an inclusive environment in which everyone feels that their individual needs have been met. In that way, people will feel seen, heard, and in turn, respected.

Recently, Dean Long sent a communication to the community on gender inclusive restrooms. She pointed to the school’s committed effort to creating physical spaces on campus that are inclusive for all members. These types of efforts are going to move us along the continuum of creating an environment in which people intuitively know they belong.

In my role, I think it’s important to be transparent and acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do. This community conversation and the other initiatives that we have underway are purposeful steps in our DIB (diversity, inclusion, and belonging) journey. I am proud of the work we’ve done thus far, and I hope in my role I can make a significant contribution to the diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategic goals for our school. Our motto has been, Learn to Change the World. If we get this right, we can ensure that we are sending our alumni out into the education sector with the experience and tools to make substantial change. A world in which my role has become obsolete!

Tracie Jones became the school's director of diversity, inclusion, and belonging this year. Previously, the title had been director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We asked Jones to talk about why she felt strongly that the word "belonging" belonged in the title.

Explore HGSE's Centennial website, a central resource for events, stories, ways to get involved, and more.