Rich Marshall, Career Advisor – Thoughts on Inclusive Excellence
Inclusive excellence is a term that has received a lot of recent visibility around the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus. The Department of Student Affairs, in addition to a number of other departments on campus, established committees to focus on implementing inclusive excellence programs within their divisions. Through my role in Career Services, I have served on the Student Affairs’ Inclusive Excellence Committee for the past several years. Despite the increasing visibility of the inclusive excellence term, it appears that uncertainty exists as to the definition and ways to incorporate inclusive excellence into our personal and professional development.
Inclusive excellence stems from a more familiar term, diversity. The reality is that we all come from unique backgrounds and cultural perspectives. From the definition offered by the UW System, diversity is a term that reflects the ability to include individual differences (i.e. personality, learning styles and life experiences) and group/social differences (i.e. race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, ability and political, religious, cultural and other affiliations) in the process of learning. Inclusion is the active, intentional and ongoing engagement with diversity in ways to increase one’s awareness, knowledge and compassion for those with different perspectives and cultural backgrounds.
In simpler terms, diversity acknowledges and embraces the fact that differences exist in our personal and cultural backgrounds, values and perspectives. Inclusive excellence begins with the belief that these differences bring value to the greater community (educational, social and professional). It solidifies itself with a personal plan to increase one’s awareness and understanding of the cultural experiences and perspectives of others. These personal plans require stepping outside of one’s own reality and comfort zones.
I grew up in a rather non-diverse environment that embraced a very white and middle class perspective. I did not discover the existence of different cultures and perspectives until I entered college. I did not truly start to embrace and appreciate the differences in others until I started to step outside of my reality and comfort zone. College provided an excellent avenue to increase my experience and awareness. I attended speakers, events and student organizational meetings to interact with people from different backgrounds.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh offers an avenue to put inclusive excellence into action. Many student organizations and campus departments host multi-cultural events and speakers. OrgSync and university announcements are great ways to stay connected to the plethora of opportunities that exist right here within our university community. In fact, the InterTribal Student Organization is hosting Ariel Luckey, a nationally-known speaker who merges storytelling, spoken word poetry, dance and hip hop music into narratives of personal and political transformation, next Friday, November 18, at 6 P.M. More information will come out via university announcements next week.
I encourage each of you to look within yourselves, embrace diversity and put inclusive excellence into action.