Representation in Higher Education

      When you think about someone representing everything you embody—what do you think about? Does this representative resemble your same likeness? It is often discussed whether or not the color of the person who is supposed to be representing a whole set of people matters. I believe that it is important to find someone of similar likeness to yours, because then, and only then, will you feel like they actually have your best interest at heart. Growing up in a very culturally-aware environment and then being exposed to an abundance of diversity academically, I was never in discomfort or questioned the roles of the principal and staff, because I trusted their decisions. They resembled me and therefore I had the comforting knowledge that everything would be alright. When I refer to resembling me, I want to be as specific as possible so there is no misunderstanding of what I mean. I am classified as a colored individual—regardless of my place of birth, the color of my skin automatically results in people labelling me as black. So for the purpose of this article, I will say I am more comfortable when a person of color leads me because they are similar to me in likeness and racial experience.

      In no shape or form do I claim that I am biased towards black people over white people—but the truth of the matter is that I am black and I am a creature of habit and will go to what is most comfortable to me. I have been attending Eastern University for the past three years and am now going through my fourth year. I could not be more happy with the adults—white and black alike—that have had such a significant impact on my life as a young woman in working progress. When I came to Eastern University, I was an extremely shy individual who had a difficult time allowing myself to assimilate into Eastern’s environment. Eastern itself is a cultural shock and makes you acutely aware of how different you are from everyone else, even when you never thought much of it beforehand. I met with Ms. Jackie Irving who took me into her motherly arms and counseled me on how to go about adapting in my own way into the campus community. She not only helped me find my voice, but also what I was most passionate about, along with finding the crowd that was right for me. She and I shared a lot of experiences in the culture that we both inherited from birth.

       I am not trying to show any biased emotions towards people of color, I am simply giving my personal opinion that there is a need for diversity in higher positions in institutions. In all my years of being at Eastern University, I have seen only one black man holding a high position and that gave me such hope that the future black men would see him as an example and do better. I also looked on with pride because I saw someone like me succeeding, so I knew I could do it as well. But aside from that individual, I have not seen any and I wonder why that is? As times are evolving and our society is expanding and our diversity threatens to burst the bubble holding it in place, I wonder if institutions will allow the diversity to make a way into their spheres as well? There are a lot of benefits to having a more diverse cabinet/group representing the institution. Students look on in determination and confidence that they too have the power to excel regardless of the demographics they are coming from. It is not, at that point, about the color of that person’s skin anymore—it is about whether or not the students believe that person can look out for their benefit and are able to stand, speak, and fight for them because they are able to view everything in a completely new and refreshing way.

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