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OIA Questionnaire Responses

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The OIA Unfinished Conversations on Race Questionnaire was conducted on June 10-22.  Participation was 11% (34/312). Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

  • While painful, I'm choosing to believe we are in a moment of growth. We, as white people, need to recognize how the past has been beneficial for us to the detriment of others and work toward a future that is more equitable for all.
  • Grieved, awakened, and hopeful.
  • Personally, I feel that a large population of the country does not have a real grasp of what humanity and care for fellow human being means. Or if they do know, they simply don't care.
  • I feel unprepared, under-educated, helpless and wished there were more opportunities for me to learn and engage in a deeper understanding so that I can be a part of the much-needed changes. I grew up in a small rural community that was very diverse but my lack of understanding and the blinders that I have worn for almost my entire life I know now is a major part of the problem. As a new parent, I feel compelled to have discussions about race and be more intentional about the books, toys, etc. she is exposed to at an early age.
  • Terrible. In my years at OIA, I have only worked with white communities, and that is a problem.
  • I am saddened by this very real divide which I, as a white person, can avoid looking at but my niece, who is black, deals with every day. As I watch her struggle, supported by a good community, a strong mother, good schools, money, and love, I feel for people who have her struggles and more without the benefit of her support system. I am not a protester, no matter the issue. I am a quiet, work behind the scenes, person, but I have considered joining a march. As a northerner living in the south, I am astonished at the statues and confederate flags that are prominent throughout the South. They need to go.
  • I'm feeling a call to action, embarrassed that I have not stepped up or listened closer, earlier. A need to utilize my white privilege in a productive and helpful manner that is grounded in listening and following the lead of the black community. I feel motivated by small town initiatives that our popping up in favor of peaceful and concrete action items to move our community forward in broadening anti-racist education. I feel honored to be apart of what I hope will result in a huge shift in awareness and mindset. I feel overwhelmed at how much i don't know and need to learn in order to show up as a better ally and community member. Professionally - I'm feeling motivated to find the most appropriate way to pivot our outreach efforts to be not only more inclusive and diverse, but also addresses the large systematic issues our family, friends and neighbors in the black community have faced for way too long. Proud to see VT's commitment to expanding diversity and inclusion and increasing access for undeserved/under represented populations over the past few years. Inspired to really see this work carried out across the Commonwealth, and beyond. Motivated to learn more concrete ways in which we as a institution can provide support.
  • Amazed, cautiously optimistic, overwhelmed
  • I’m feeling challenged to take action, rather than just be informed, and saddened by the heavy weight of the pain many of my close friends are expressing that I’ve heard expressed in limited ways before but now am listening to and feeling the weight of in a new way. I’m inspired by the activism of others in my “millennial” generation, both students and professionals, and I’m hopeful this will lead to lasting change in policy, business, leadership, etc. - but also somewhat hesitant about trusting that it will.
  • Ashamed that we as a country are seeming no farther in removing racism than we were 60 years ago. Ashamed at the entitlement employed by anti-blacks in thinking history is on their side and therefore they are right. Ashamed that the same hatred that caused my Native American ancestors to bury their history and heritage is still alive and well. Still hopeful that we can make change happen though listening to the experiences and feelings of others. Still hopeful that my own children will see all as equal regardless of pigmentation, culture and life experiences.
  • I am proud of my country for FINALLY taking a public stand against systemic oppression and racism.
  • Personally very saddened to see the violence being perpetrated against members of our society, and the protesters who are following their constitutional rights. Professionally, I feel that we as an organization need to do more to support minorities - from our own students through the trajectory of their careers.
  • Concerned. I am becoming increasingly aware that I am poorly educated in matters of race.
  • I am feeling uncomfortable, but that is how it should be ... uncomfortable and guilty that it has taken me this long to feel compelled to move forward. However, I am also proud, I'm proud of the amazing men and women that have mobilized to protest the systemic and institutional racism that pervades our daily lives. Professional, I feel that I must do more to center myself so that I can respond with the appropriate actions that will support dismantling prejudiced norms, beliefs, and attitudes that are the foundational basis of the work that my unit on campus does - as development and research for development remains steeped in the ethos of the "white man's burden" and "white savior complex".
  • News media, personal conversations
  • Books, attending community conversations.
  • The Little Book of Racial Healing, Justice in June, and the work of Bryan Stevenson
  • I see a psychologist.
  • I watch the news, and see articles on-line, however, with different sides of the fence, it is difficult to disseminate what are the actual facts.
  • I'm watching documentaries (Netflix's new BLM gallery is really helpful), I've followed new accounts on social media that provide education and gives exposure to BLM causes, I'm participating in webinars through the University to learn more.
  • Reading about whiteness and white supremacy, reflecting on how I am complicit in white supremacy in my job by continuing to work within the existing structure that privileges white voices and opinions.
  • I’m watching documentaries such as 13th, reading articles, and planning to read the book White Fragility this summer. I’ve been utilizing social media to listen to voices and organizations active in the social justice movement. I’ve also watched the VT Inclusive Insights since the last video dialogue and have found those helpful touch points for topics I can explore further.
  • I am not seeking resources to understand these events, but I am doing all it takes to stay informed. Unfortunately, my resources are my lived experiences akin to those who are speaking out around the world now.
  • Black authors, Black activists, Black friends and colleagues
  • We need more people of color in leadership positions.
  • The university does not enroll any more black students now than it did when Menah Pratt-Clarke was hired. Virginia Tech does not need to hire people into high-level positions; they need to talk to minority students, faculty, and staff to understand what the challenges are.
  • I would say that the OIA unit is a pretty diverse unit, and feel that people feel comfortable with what we represent.
  • OIA's mission and focus lends itself to serving communities who are often marginalized. Engaging with communities and individuals who may otherwise be overlooked, left out or not heard from. I can only speculate about the challenges faced by black people and people of color to benefit from what OIA provides but I would start with the disproportionate number of black students who attend VT versus other races. The admission process is a gatekeeper to the University and until this is addressed the impact OIA can provide will be limited to those who are admitted. Others may include but aren't limited to: monetary constraints, lack of resources to gain access to OIA resources, the resources that OIA provides, etc. I also want to point out how proud I am of the work OIA does to serve underserved communities. Programs like TRIO and centers like those in RVA and Newport News are extensions of VT that help to broaden the Universities reach but also ensure a concerted effort is being made to include populations that may not find their ways to VT or other institutions of higher education otherwise.
  • Black people are excluded from many of our initiatives, because we don't make the explicit effort to engage them. We need to examine how our current initiatives encourage white participation, and not black participation. Sure, we build capacity for communities in rural areas to make decisions about growing their economies - but because the leaders in those communities are white, black people (and indigenous people) are not invited to the table. ... In some ways, our funding model needs to be examined to see how it perpetuates inequality and injustice.
  • If we look at the Study abroad program you are restricted by two things - VT does not attract a large percentage of black students/does not have a large percentage of black students. For many of VT students it is a thing that rich white kids do for a fun semester. Change that image and show it as a given - college students should take time internationally. 
  • Accessibility. How are we reaching Black constituents. What can we do differently to be more inclusive.
  • Engage black alumni across state
  • Both across the commonwealth and the world there seems to be an implicit bias against non-white people. Education is important to help individuals that are facing those barriers rise above.
  • There is an assumption that not only Blacks, but minorities are inferior within my unit, and it comes through systemic acts of micro aggression (patronizing and dismissive comments, omission from discussions, etc.). I worry that these attitudes can feed into our partnerships. 
  • Since TRIO Programs serves a large amount of Black students, having staff members trained on working with Black trauma, stereotypes, injustice etc is crucial in serving our students to the best of our ability - unfortunately that isn't in place and I don't feel like I can I have the ability to speak up and ask for it as a new employee
  • I am learning that there are obstacles that I never realized existed and I need to learn much more. I wonder how well we reach into minority communities for our professional development programs. Are they out of reach if you aren't working in a company willing to pay for it -- if you aren't already in a position that supports your career development? The Reynolds Homestead is a former plantation. How can we make sure we are properly telling the story of slavery at the Reynolds Homestead not just from the Reynolds family perspective but also the black perspective? Are we glorifying the Reynolds family without properly recognizing the contribution of their slaves to that family's wealth?
  • Awareness, security
  • I think OIA is very fair to all people of color.
  • The field of international development is very white and colonialist, approaching Africa as a site of little knowledge and huge problems that require white saviors
  • One of the major barriers is limited ongoing conversations on race. If we choose not to have regular conversations on how to combat racial inequality as a team, it may limit people of color from thinking it is an open, safe place to reflect.
  • Why is this just for "black" people? There are challenges for all races. But as far as what OIA provides, we serve ALL people regardless.
  • The hiring process
  • My unit tends to employ students. Perhaps when we hire we could recruit from student groups like BSA or others.
  • Put people of color into leading roles and hosting/teaching programs.
  • Talk to minority students, faculty, and staff members who are currently at Virginia Tech as well as those who transferred out or graduated, or changed jobs.
  • Public education, data based findings on issues facing the black community for people that try to disregard the experiences shared, taking inventory of systematic issues facing POC locally and brainstorming solutions. Creating safe places for convening and discussion. Work to increase representation in community planning initiatives.
  • Actively market our programs and services in methods designed to more likely reach Black constituents.
  • Anti-racist education; black leaders in advisory roles
  • I want to find ways to specifically address the financial barriers in a way that explicitly aims to foster more diverse study abroad participation. I also want to connect with Black student organizations to build relationships and connections, as well as more intentionally work with faculty program leaders to develop racially inclusive and culturally aware environments on their programs.
  • focused programs by the Economic Development Office, expansion of TRIO
  • Outreach activities to schools and groups that serve underprivileged youth. Facilitating conversations between leaders in non-white communities and others.
  • Scholarships for study abroad
  • OIA-wide mandatory trainings
  • Working with students or younger professionals who may benefit from some support and guidance from professionals in the workplace. Add programs that teach better intercultural communication and behavior. Conduct a diversity/racial climate survey in OIA.
  • Reaching into underserved communities, especially for free professional development events. Find grants or funding to help underserved communities take part?
  • Funding for African American graduate students. Visiting scholar opportunities for African scientists.
  • First, we could make more statements online that show our commitment to diversity. Second, we could have monthly discussions to talk about race, for example, a book club, or a meeting where we talk about a text in order to engage with one another on the topic.
  • Continue to put our information on all kinds of social media so that everyone can benefit
  • Going into the communitites. Offering programs for: youth, girls, parenting, job essential, community building, and also putting in community service time to connect with the community.
  • Directly engage BIPOC in my work. When invited by white community leaders, make an effort to include BIPOC in the conversation. Refuse to work for localities that aren't interested in inclusive economic or community growth. We could also use some anti-racist training, as well as someone who might evaluate our current portfolio and strategies and identify ways that we can be more inclusive and anti-racist in our work. 
  • I can kindly acknowledge systematic racism when I see it in everyday situations. I can also educate myself to recognize my own implicit biases and reflect on how I can better be part of the solution and ACT on that information.
  • I would listen to the actual minority members of the community rather than watching the university trot out a statement every time there is a tragedy or an incident on campus.
  • Provide a forum for voice, networking
  • Host community round table discussions with members of the black community and allies that explore issues facing our community in regards to lack of access and racism. Invite professors to lead lectures on the issues we're facing and research that has been conducted. Continue to advocate for greater college access information and opportunities as well as the development of stronger educational pipelines. Host community visioning workshops that not only include representation from the black community but also are targeted at brainstorming development projects that address issues of equity. Elevate the stories and impact of black community members. Develop programming aimed at assisting youth with language and tools to utilize when facing or witnessing overt or intentional racism.
  • Continue to set a good example as an administrator, mentor my staff, promote diversity.
  • Work toward more inclusive searches and hiring practices, promote more diversity and inclusivity programs, better training and professional development, and address practices that could introduce bias, both professionally and personally. Try to learn more about what others are doing in this pursuit and how to continue improving climate.
  • Help develop a mentorship program for OIA to expose incoming students to the many different career opportunities across our units.
  • I think one recognizing the ways in which the "ghosts" of colonialism haunt development and some of our interactions with our partners, peers, and colleagues from the Global South (unintentionally or intentionally). 
  • I would like our center to make a formal statement in support of Black Lives Matter (in which I am happy to help to prepare), as well as have regular conversations/meetings on race. It might even be helpful to incorporate relevant texts/books that we can read as a team and discuss, which I would also be happy to help lead. Personally, I can address racism by ensuring that I never use language that supports racial inequality as well as make sure that diverse voices are represented when I write about the work we do.
  • Hold conversations. Open it up to community members of all kinds to discuss these inequalities in an open environment, focused solely on breaking down systemic barriers- working towards a place of understanding.
  • Market to under represented groups. Actively recruit more instructors of color. I do try and be very mindful our marketing messages are representative of all learners.