If Serena Walker Jean ’21, an accounting major and a business information systems minor, has learned one thing about herself during the pandemic, it’s that her brain orients things by place. “The hardest part of working virtually has been reorienting my brain to understand that my room isn’t just for relaxing anymore. It’s for working also,” says Walker Jean.
Perhaps that’s why it’s been so important to her, as one of the leaders of Lehigh’s Diversity Peer Educators, to give students a place to speak about diversity.
“I have a lot of strong opinions on diversity and inclusion but have never been in a space where I could formally articulate those beliefs. DPE was an opportunity to share my knowledge with others while also educating myself,” Walker Jean says.
DPE has recently taken a new approach to the group, offering groups on campus a series of 20-minute engaging and interactive discussions and activities that cover a variety of topics for a more well-rounded experience.
“It’s important for groups to know that racism and the issues surrounding it aren’t just a one and done conversation. They continuously happen. And once the conversation is started, it’s a lot easier to keep it going,” she explains.
In an effort to impact meaningful change, DPE spends a lot of time analyzing the law and looking into the system itself. “When people talk about racism, they usually mean race relations. Racism is a much bigger issue than that—it’s systemic,” she says.
Topics include unconscious/implicit bias, terms that come from racist roots and how to be an ally.
“It’s especially important now to know how to be an ally. There are a lot of people who are posting things on social media who don’t know how to make meaningful change or how to get involved in the movement,” Walker Jean adds.
As a leader and active contributor to the group, Walker Jean feels like she’s working toward the greater good by giving people the space to actually make change while getting better at it herself.
“Student leaders, like Serena, lend their voice as peer educators and share their own personal experiences,” says DPE Advisor Clara Buie, associate director, Multicultural Affairs, “which elevate the complexities that come with social justice work.”
The one thing Walker Jean hadn’t counted on was how the experience with DPE would impact her career goals. “I don’t think I realized how much diversity and inclusion is a passion for me. I want to be more involved with these efforts no matter what I end up doing in my future,” Walker Jean says.
To learn more about DPE contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Beth Tancredi