November 17, 2016

Interview with Rashayla Marie Brown, SAIC’s Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion

Rashayla Marie Brown sat down with Grad Journal to talk about SAIC’s Multicultural Affairs office. Brown is a practicing artist and the Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion. She leads SAIC’s Multicultural Affairs office and participates on committees of the Diversity Advisory Group.

 

Grad Journal (GJ): Could you introduce the Multicultural Affairs office to the graduate community?

Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB): Sure. Like our website mentions, we support, advocate for, and mediate for students on issues of inclusivity, representation, and empowerment with specific emphasis on the needs of the underrepresented communities. Also, the Multicultural Affairs programs are focused on institutional initiatives and advising and mentoring the affinity groups. 

GJ: What are some highlights and events the office held this year that strengthened the diversity and inclusion on campus this year?

RMB: We supported a lot of student programs that are collaborative in nature, designed the students to not only feel empowered in their sense of identity but also to share with people with different backgrounds. For instance, there is also a program that we organize called "Intersectionality" critique exchanges. Those are spaces where we invite visitors from a variety of backgrounds to speak to students directly about their work about issues on identity or related to that. It's an alternative critique space outside of the classroom where people can get a little bit more focused on a particular cultural, political topic, or something related to identity.

The events that I particularly am proud of supporting come directly from the students. Decolonization Dinner is one of them. It’s an event where students from many affinity groups come together and talk about what it means to critically think about the history of colonization around Thanksgiving time. So instead of celebrating the popular narrative of the Native Americans and the pilgrims coming together, the event allows the participants to critically think about what happened in colonization and how we can eventually decolonize, educate and think of ways to promote alternative narratives about American history and globalization.

GJ: This was the first year SAIC presented DiversityEdu, a campus-wide online diversity training. Can you share how the training came about and if you found it to be a successful training?

RMB: I do believe it was a successful training. It's been a long road to get the training out there. There was a significant team of folks from Human Resources, Student Affairs, Faculty and Diversity Advisory Groups who spent a lot of time this summer developing and customizing the training. It was very well-received particularly by the incoming students. 89% of the new undergraduate students and 77% of the new graduate students completed the training. Those are very high numbers for a first-time training. 

GJ: What are some ways graduate students can get involved with the office? 

RMB: There are two main ways. One, they can join an affinity group. Students can go on Engage.saic.edu to look at all the student-groups that are organized on campus. And join a group that speaks to their interest, identity or background. That would be my first suggestion. The second one would be to attend a Multicultural Affairs advising community meeting, which are composed of the leaders of the affinity groups. Any folks who want to collaborate with them or learn about the programs that they are doing can attend. We publicize these meetings on the newsletter. You can sign up to the newsletter by emailing to maffai@saic.edu to join the email list.

I would encourage the graduate community to think of Student Affairs to be a space for them. A lot of them operate only within their departments and I think they miss out on a lot of great opportunities to work, create programs and be involved on campus. Don't miss out on what I perceive as a very instrumental part of SAIC experience.