University leaders reflect on DEI background and experiences
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Trinity starts with identifying leaders who understand the importance of living out our value of intentional inclusion. Within the past year, the University has welcomed four new leaders who possess significant experience and expertise in DEI initiatives. This breadth of knowledge will help ensure the entire student experience will be viewed through a DEI lens. Trinity magazine asked our new leaders three questions:
- What is your professional experience with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
- How are you integrating your DEI experience with your role at Trinity?
- What are you most looking forward to as Trinity makes significant progress with DEI efforts?
Megan Mustain, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
- As a philosophy professor, I invite my students to interrogate assumptions, and I seek to have that critical stance embodied in the course itself. I’ve always worked to create an inclusive classroom, and I create space for my students to do the same. As an administrator, I see my role as broadening this critical lens to the structures, policies, and institutional cultures that bake assumptions into our work together.
- From reviewing hiring and evaluation practices to disaggregating data to better see how our choices create barriers to access and success, DEI is integral to my work. Most importantly, though, I want to help create structures for ongoing community reflection and dialogue; we need to grow together in our ability to grow together.
- Thinking in decades instead of days or weeks, I look forward to seeing the ways that incremental changes build into institutional transformation. I dream of the day I walk onto campus to find that the things I helped build are being rebuilt, renovated, or even replaced with something better. When that happens, I’ll know I helped create and sustain a culture of renewal and ongoing improvement.
Dean of Students
- I arrived at Millsaps College in Mississippi in 2016 in a role akin to a senior diversity officer. It was my first professional role specific to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a professional in higher education with multiple socialized visible and invisible minoritized identities, my work really began with understanding myself. My first goal was to be able to show up to work for students operating in as much authenticity as possible, giving me the knowledge and skills to serve all of our students better.
- Simply put, if I am going to be an effective dean of students, I have to be able to connect with as much of the student body as possible, across all identity dimensions. Through conversations with students, I am getting a better sense of what the students want. My goal is to be able to help move this campus forward in a way that’s consistent with institutional values.
- I am really looking forward to fully understanding the full breadth of student experiences at Trinity. I am learning how they feel about their classroom experiences, what happens in their social engagements with other students, where they find challenges, and where they find support. Ultimately, we want our students equipped to create the experiences they value on campus and to leverage what they learn into meaningful lives for themselves.
Erika Robinson, J.D.
- Before attending law school, I served as a student affairs professional at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on the residence life team and participated in the Social Justice Training Institute. Then, as the inaugural executive director for the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion at Georgia Gwinnett College, I structured the office to ensure compliance with the college’s obligations under Title VII and Title IX, which prohibit protected class discrimination. Additionally, I earned an executive certificate in strategic diversity and inclusion management from the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies and participated in the Standards of Professional Practice for Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education Institute organized by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
- As the University’s general counsel, my primary role is to provide strategic legal advice using a deep understanding of Trinity’s mission, vision, and strategic goals as my framework. However, my experience as a diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner informs my approach to engaging in difficult conversations related to complex issues. My DEI experience also helps me identify potential systemic challenges embedded in our institution that hinder progress in achieving the University’s goals of promoting inclusive excellence.
- I look forward to supporting the work of the University in actualizing the recommendations made in the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force report. I also will help develop a legally appropriate framework that allows Trinity to fully realize our goal of creating an educational and working environment that demonstrates our value of intentional inclusion.
Director for Student Diversity and Inclusion
- I have had the opportunity to collaborate with on- and off-campus stakeholders to create sustainable programming and partnerships that directly impact accessibility, campus climate, and support services. My creation of the Dreamer Council and service on the Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board at UTSA were both excellent opportunities to pool resources and implement systemic changes.
- At the core, I believe DEI efforts seek to address inequities in systems and to achieve social and racial justice through inclusive practices that involve engaging diverse perspectives and lived experiences. My approach is grounded in mindfulness, humility, and empathy, which allows for the creation of relational bridges across varied cultural, social, and emotional experiences.
- With intentional inclusion as one of our core values, I find the prospect of our collective pursuance and implementation of inclusive excellence strategies at Trinity incredibly exciting. Over the past year, as a community, we have done an immense amount of work, some of it behind the scenes and in our respective areas, to advance our DEI goals. Now is the time for us to continue with this great momentum to institutionalize prioritized recommendations in partnership with the new additions to the Tiger family.