My personal journey towards developing awareness and skills related to diversity and equity include: becoming more aware of my own identity and how my lived experiences shape who I am; learning more about my colleagues and students and how their identities and experiences shape them; and learning more about equity issues, especially those related to structural racism.
I have been fortunate to participate in several trainings that have helped me in this learning process in recent years, such as: UW’s Undocu Ally training to learn about the experiences of undocumented students; Leading with Racial Equity for Structural Transformation Workshop to learn about my own and others’ positions of advantages and disadvantages; Cultural Proficiency for Social Justice Training to explore intersections of identities; Mental Health First Aid Training and Forefront Suicide Prevention to learn about less-visible disabilities, and to assist students with mental health, self-care, and suicide awareness.
I recognize that facets of my social identity have provided me privilege in U.S. society. It is my responsibility to learn how this privilege contributes to marginalization of people, and what my role is to work against this. I am currently focussing on learning what it means to be anti-racist and how I can incorporate antiracism in my teaching and advising. One way that I do so is to flatten the hierarchy by positioning myself as a learner alongside students, providing space for every student to have a voice, and to recognize that students’ voices come in different forms, not just spoken. I am also learning to recognize spaces where it is not my place to speak but rather to listen, then to take action.
In my work as a teacher and adviser, I take measures to establish trust and foster a sense of belonging, and to let students know they are welcome and respected in my office and classroom. I learn the pronouns students use, as well as preferred names, and I use inclusive language in our communication. Over the fifteen years that I have worked in higher education, I have had several opportunities to serve students from diverse backgrounds at various points in their academic journey, and I am mindful of the social and economic challenges that students face. One important aspect of equity is to recognize that not all students have had the same opportunities. I listen to where students are “at” and try to connect students with the resources they need.
In my current position with UW’s Scandinavian Studies Department, I am proud to have contributed to the conversations around access and equity, and inclusion, and to advocate for students when needed. In my courses, I incorporate literature by non-white authors such as Jason Dikité, Jonas Khemiri, Athena Farrokhzad; and scholars who bring up questions around identity and belonging what it means to be Swedish such as Selma Lagerlöf, Rosa Taikon, and Ylva Habel. I also encourage students to reflect and share about their own identities.
My goals for contributing to EDI in the Scandinavian Studies department in the future include continuing to expand on the work that I have mentioned above. Additionally, I would like to help to focus our outreach efforts to engage more students who may not otherwise consider themselves Scandinavianists. I would like to examine barriers that the requirements of our language major poses for transfer students and non-heritage speakers. I would like to explore curriculum changes and marketing efforts to make our majors more accessible to anyone who expresses an interest in Scandinavian Studies. I look forward to continuing to provide input in the scholarship award process. I would love to make a long-term goal that the majority of our majors are able to study or travel to a Nordic or Baltic country, even if it is just for a short time, before they graduate.