My philosophy toward diversity, equity, and inclusion work is simple, informed by feminist political theorist, Sara Ahmed, who writes: “I will not reproduce a world I cannot bear, a world I do not think should be borne.” I actively seek to transform institutions that have marginalized me, that marginalize others. I never want to recreate for others my own experiences of being in an academic classroom and feeling like I don’t belong, like I am somehow out of place.

“I will not reproduce a world I cannot bear,

a world I do not think should be borne.”

(Ahmed 2018)

In my research, I employ this philosophy by interrogating how policy creates systems that foster development and growth among some, privileged groups, while inhibiting that for others. I study what barriers people of color, people who lack legal citizenship, and people who otherwise exist at the margins encounter in attempts to access the social safety net. In addition, I critically examine to what extent the social safety net itself reproduces a world with predictable, preventable racial, gendered, and other health inequities. That is a world I cannot bear. By identifying these factors, I hope to persuade policymakers to dismantle those aspects that recreate inequity and create a world that I can not only bear but can fully participate in.

As a mentor and a teacher, I am constantly learning from my students. In my courses I incorporate readings from diverse authors and facilitate class discussions about how identity matters in academic research and in public policy. I have the distinct honor of learning from my students about their own histories and their ideas about what equity in policy might look like as we discuss how diverse groups experience policies and programs. In these roles I learn more about what promises my students believe were made to them about college and academia. I learn, too, how the university breaks those promises for marginalized students. As I learn, I realize more and more that this world is not one I want my students to bear.

I seek to queer the academic spaces I inhabit. The classroom has historically been a place where heteronormativity is valued and reproduced. Instead, I draw on queer theories to build lessons that celebrate the variety of experiences possible beyond the binaries around which we have historically structured our society. Because my research is socio historical, I incorporate the histories of queerness into my analysis, both in their importance to political movements and in their consequences for other forms of marginalization. Queering academia is one way I create space for myself and for others to feel comfortable and seen.

As a member of the Sanford School of Public Policy Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I contributed to creating and implementing a peer mentorship program. I have had the opportunity and delight to serve as a mentor for a first-year student. We talk extensively about the “hidden curriculum” in graduate school, which neither of us were prepared for prior to beginning our program. As we discuss how she can succeed in her first year and beyond we are together creating a world and a program that is, at least, more bearable. She and I work together to construct meaning and to figure out how best to navigate graduate school as a marginalized person, how to feel like we belong in a space that was not made for us.

I hope to build a world through research, teaching, and mentorship that enables every member of an academic community to flourish.