Student Affairs grad puts learning to practice

CEHS staff participate in diversity identity training April 10, 2017 at the Nebraska Union.

Student Affairs grad puts learning to practice

11 May 2017     By Brad Stauffer

The College of Education and Human Sciences has long-established values that include “respect for diverse people, ideas, voices and perspectives.” The vision statement for the college includes a statement that people in CEHS “with varying interests, backgrounds, roles, and talents will thrive and each member’s contribution will be respected, supported, and valued.” In addition, the CEHS strategic plan includes a theme to “create and sustain a vibrant, diverse community” that helps guide the district in goals around diversity and inclusion.

As part of her 2016-17 graduate assistantship with Associate Dean Deb Mullen, May master’s graduate Alisha Tesfalem took her passion for diversity and inclusion and planned activities through the year for CEHS faculty and staff. After securing her degree through the Educational Administration Department’s student affairs program, Tesfalem is seeking to start a higher education career where she can feed her passion for advancing diversity and inclusion.

Alisha Tesfalem
Recent CEHS graduate Alisha Tesfalem coordinated
a series of multicultural training sessions for faculty
and staff in the college during the 2016-17 school year.

“Diversity and inclusion is sometimes perceived as this subject thing that is the right thing to do,” says Tesfalem, “but now people are starting to realize that this is a necessity. We are a progressive university in a progressive society so we must go forward—not just with our intentions but with actually doing. That’s what it’s going to take for diversity and inclusion initiatives to succeed.”

Events that Tesfalem planned under the guidance of Mullen included:

  • An Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) workshop featuring Helen Fagan, lecturer in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication program at Nebraska. The IDI helps participants understand the progression of cultural competence, personally and organizationally.
  • A harassment and discrimination workshop that explored how discrimination impacts our campus. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Linda Major provided statistics on harassment and discrimination, briefed participants on the impact of harassment on victims and led a discussion about how CEHS staff and faculty can be more proactive. 
  • Bystander training, led by Jan Deeds, associate director of gender programs and the Women’s Center. The training involved recognizing a problem, feeling like something should be done about it and having the skills to act and improve the situation. The training provided resources to recognize and intervene on sexual harassment, discrimination, domestic abuse and other inappropriate behaviors.
  • Justin Olmanson, assistant professor in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, and Karen Kassebaum, director of staff of diversity and inclusion at Nebraska, led a presentation on identity power dynamics. John Goldrich, licensed mental health practitioner from the university health center, also helped participants examine personal experiences and how those experiences shape our work in advocating for a more inclusive college.
Linda Major presents harassment and <br> discrimination training to CEHS faculty and staff <br> Jan. 27, 2017 at the Wick Alumni Center.
Linda Major presents harassment and discrimination training to CEHS faculty and staff Jan. 27, 2017 at the Wick Alumni Center

 “The feedback has been tremendous,” said Mullen. “Faculty and staff alike have enjoyed the opportunity to do things like take the Intercultural Development Inventory. They have appreciated every single event that we have offered. Too often, we don’t take time to really focus on these issues because our days are busy with other things, so this little oasis of time was devoted to an important topic and it allowed us to have some cross conversations between faculty and staff, and that’s been great.”

Tesfalem appreciates the social justice component of her student affairs program and would like to apply what she has learned.

“As a minority, I can understand what it sometimes feels like to be an ‘other’ in a PWI [predominately white institution],” said Tesfalem. “Coordinating these events has given me some insights and some experience, and I’m really excited about it. Going forward I will definitely be looking for a career in diversity.”

Tesfalem continues to work with Mullen this summer as she pursues the right career opportunity.

College of Education and Human Sciences
Educational Administration