RCCC continues to champion inclusiveness in recent forum

Published 12:08 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

SALISBURY — Making strides in diversity and inclusion requires someone to take the first step. Leaders at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College hope their recent online seminar can be that forward step. 

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Growth, Understanding, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (G.U.I.D.E.) Virtual Conference seeks to create a learning space for professionals in educational institutions and community-based organizations to celebrate achievements, be inspired by best practices, and learn how to drive change. The conference was held last Friday.

Danielle Gilbert, the chief diversity officer at Manifest in You Consulting, served as the keynote speaker. Manifest In You Consulting is a Richmond-based firm that helps small- and medium-sized employers.

“As a consultant, what I do is help businesses utilize inclusive language,” Gilbert said. 

According to Gilbert, that starts with identifying and addressing institutions that prevent progress.

“We should not allow systematic barriers to prevent us from coming together,” Gilbert said. “How do we create justice? How do we embrace inclusivity? All of that takes commitment through your action.”

Gilbert explained that commitment is essential when distinguishing between diversity and inclusion. 

“Diversity is many scattered pieces,” Gilbert said. “When we truly commit to make the connection across cultural competency, we get inclusion.”

Using a word like competency can carry implied connotations, so Gilbert added that she likes to use “cultural humility” or “cultural curiosity” instead.

“We all see things differently,” Gilbert said. “We see and do things differently. When you see someone who shows up differently, just know their perspective is different.” 

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Human Resources and Equity Director Nekita Eubanks indicated that as the forum, which entered its third year, evolves, so, too, has the approach to organizing it. 

“For this year, we’re really trying to get quality versus quantity,” Eubanks said. 

The forum has come a long way since its first installment, but Eubanks explained that the mission, to pair the curious with learning tools, remains the same. 

“It started as a virtual conference because we were right in the midst of COVID,” Eubanks said. “So as the school was pivoting, trying to figure out how we put all of our classes online, we were trying to figure out how we could do this conference and offer these pieces to community colleges and agencies, where we weren’t finding this information before.”

As the forum has grown, the increased attendance has been a beacon of confidence for Eubanks. 

“The first year, we had 1,400 people who actually signed up for the conference, some of which were international,” Eubanks said. “We were impressed. When we got the first 500, we were like, oh my goodness. When we reached 1,000, we were like, wow, this is mind-blowing.”

Eubanks indicated that her department’s feedback after previous seminars helped curate the latest installment. 

“They really tell us what they want to see and the type of information they want to receive,” Eubanks said. “From the beginning, when we put G.U.I.D.E. in place, it was really about being holistic. We wanted something for everyone. So depending on where you were in that diversity space, we wanted you to come to G.U.I.D.E. and be able to pick out a course that was for you.”

Eubanks lamented that seminars like G.U.I.D.E. are even necessary, but confronted the fact that it is as important now as ever. 

“I wish it were simple because it is so important,” Eubanks said. “About three years ago, we did not see this type of work being talked about. So we didn’t have that outlet. (Rowan-Cabarrus president) Dr. Carol Spalding has always said she wants us to be the catalyst of change.”

As an institution of higher learning, Eubanks pointed out how Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is positioned to be that catalyst. 

“Who better to do this type of work than us?” Eubanks said. “It was created really because we were trying to look for a space where we could share learning with everyone. It was holistic, and you could pick out something with this cafeteria approach of something for everyone.”

Eubanks added that it is important to continue that type of work because people “continue to ask for it.”

“As we progress in terms of being a society, we’re going to continue to need this type of work,” Eubanks said. “We’re going to continue to be able to or need to have these types of conversations.”

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