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Higher Education Grad, Student Commencement Speaker: Educators Must Build an ‘Inclusive and Equitable Culture’

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In an ideal world, all educators would embrace fostering a just, equitable and inclusive education. All of us would recognize and work against our own biases and privileges to inform our practice. We would know the difference between equality and equity and be intentional with providing that type of education to others. We would meet students where they are at and see that they have community, cultural wealth that should be accounted for as valuable. 

Unfortunately, we are not in an ideal world and these things as well as countless other aspects to a just, equitable and inclusive education are not accounted for. We are privileged in a sense that we are graduating from a college that has a goal of instilling this type of education into all of us, to make sure that we comprehend what that means but to also make sure that we do the work.

To me, a just, equitable and inclusive education is knowing that there is much more to this work than what has been done. Being just, equitable and inclusive is a lifestyle. It’s more than just stating our pronouns at the beginning of meetings. It’s more than just saying that we need to support our students that come from underserved communities. A just, equitable and inclusive education is the education that instills action behind words. It’s making sure that the folks who aren’t able to advocate for themselves are supported by others to create space for them to do that. It’s having difficult conversations with friends and family members who are not in this line of work and educating them on what it means to be just, what it means to be equitable and inclusive. It’s recognizing that things like land acknowledgements, going to ally trainings and providing a seat at the table for marginalized folks are just the beginning to the number of things we could be doing. It’s acknowledging that there are systems in this world that weren’t built for people who look like me. But besides acknowledging that, it’s also doing what we can to change those systems.

We are going into a world that may not be prepared for us, but we are prepared to change that. When we step into our new positions or even the positions we already have, we need to take what we’ve learned here and see how we can ingrain that into our environments. A just, equitable and inclusive education can be contagious if we let it. There is a quote I’d like to share from an author of a book I recently read, Naomi Daradar Sigg. As educators, we must reflect on our identities, values and biases and gain the awareness, skills and knowledge to be effective educators fostering an inclusive and equitable culture. This is what we are tasked with as we move forward in our careers in education.

Speech by Monique Lynch, who earned a master’s degree in education with a concentration in higher education.

Monique Lynch is the College of Education Class of 2021 student speaker. Lynch also served on the Associated Students Inc. Board of Directors for the College of Education.

Kendra Morales