Abington Student Expert: Diversity, a Critical Life Skill for Careers

ABINGTON Pa. – A nationally recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expert interviewed, inspired, and challenged Penn State Abington students to build awareness and confidence to educate others on the subject. Justin Brown encouraged them to see DEI as essential to their careers and to make it part of their life skills portfolio.

“That’s what employers are looking for, people who can create safe spaces for themselves and others by developing intentional relationships,” he said.

The author and educator showcased his high-energy, action-oriented diversity outreach program at the Lares Student Union building on campus. He used creative icebreakers and question-based games to drive home his points while keeping the mood light for the 35 students who participated.

“You have to go beyond what you see and make the most of your opportunities at university. Break down barriers. Let’s face it, you could have stayed home if you wanted to stay with the same people,” Brown said.

He called on students to assess their own feelings about discussing DEI inside and outside their circle of family, friends and community.

“Are you uncomfortable talking about diversity? It’s understandable because it could lead to conflict and it requires skills that few of us have mastered,” he said.

Avoidance comes from the fear of speaking badly, sounding racist or unintentionally doing harm, he explained, but everyone has their own story. Your background is not important. It’s your lived experiences and how you identify with and process them, he said.

“Don’t argue. To ask questions. Seek clarity, offer alternative perspectives, speak your truth, find common ground, give yourself the time and space you need, and set boundaries,” Brown said while reminding the audience that even seemingly small interactions such as correctly pronouncing a person’s name make a big impression.

Valerie J. Wallis