by Shavonne R. Shorter, Ph.D. Associate Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer; Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington
Want the secret to living a full and fulfilling life? My advice is to take every opportunity available to understand, appreciate, and celebrate diversity in all of its forms. Our identities and lived experiences transform us into who we are, shape our outlook on the world, provide a common bond with those who share similar characteristics, and make us beautifully unique. When we take time to center the importance of diversity in our own lives, we become better people. Why you may ask? Because focusing on diversity helps us to grow relationally, to become astute learners, and to have enriching social experiences. Here are some tips on how to embrace diversity in your life:
- Commit to having real, meaningful, conversations with those around you: In our busy world it is easy to neglect opportunities to communicate with one another in ways that help us discover the humanity of others. But please don’t. Everyone you meet has a story and insightful things to share. Take the time this week to engage in conversation with someone who you would like to know more about. Maybe they are a co-worker, or a member of an organization you belong to, perhaps it’s a neighbor, or a relative you don’t get to connect with often. Ask questions, listen, reflect, marvel, converse. Receive their experiences and share yours. Discuss ways in which you can support each other to help one another feel seen, heard, and valued. And then do it. Dedicate time to continuing the conversation as often as you can.
- Seek opportunities to learn about how other individuals experience the world: Never miss an opportunity to expand your knowledge about ways of being, knowing, and doing that are different from your own. In today’s age, there are so many great ways to gain knowledge. Invest in as many as you can. Say yes to attending webinars or in person learning opportunities with a focus on diversity. Start a book club and read work from authors who are all different from one another in a myriad of ways and then discuss your thoughts about what they have shared. Listen to a podcast about a topic that you have never heard of and immerse yourself in what you hear. Take every opportunity that you can to use search engines to discover more. You’ll be glad you did.
- Do something new and exciting: Go to places that you have never been before, be it a short drive away to a cultural festival, a day trip to a different state, or an international trip. Make connections with those you meet and receive their wisdom. Act on their recommendations. Patronize local artisans. Try that new dish and save room for dessert. Expand your playlist by adding music from the region. Push yourself as you learn a new style of dance or attempt a sport you never knew existed. Make new friends, laugh a lot, and capture the memories to cherish later.
I wish you all the very best as you begin or continue this important journey.