Diversity Dialogue series continues with Elise Michaux

Category:  News
Friday, November 26th, 2021 at 2:53 PM
Diversity Dialogue series continues with Elise Michaux  by Julia Carden
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Edinboro University featured a new expert guest for another episode of its online series Diversity Dialogue, titled Lessons Learned: Diversity in Erie Higher Education. This is the second “Diversity Dialogues” session of the fall semester, and the fourth episode streamed on the university’s YouTube channel since the series began last year.  

The recent online discussion was streamed live on the university’s YouTube channel on Thursday, Nov. 18. Edinboro students, faculty and staff were invited to attend to explore diversity in higher education, specifically in Erie County. Elise Michaux was the guest inclusion expert, accompanied by Dr. Terrence Mitchell, vice president for diversity equity and inclusion at Edinboro, Clarion and California universities. 

Michaux currently serves as the director of enrollment and management at the Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania. According to Michaux, she has worked in higher education for eight years, with previous positions at Robert Morris and Seton Hill universities. She explained that although diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) weren’t her main role in these positions, she has “intentionally woven them into her work.” 

Following introductions, Michaux announced three principles: the role we all play in DEI work, hiring intentionally and consistency in cross-campus efforts. 

Starting with the role we play in DEI work, she explained that “this isn’t something just for your chief diversity officer; this is something that each of us should understand and make happen on our campuses.” She noted the importance of reframing how DEI is viewed, uplifting the voices that are present and ensuring individual learning.  

She then moved on to hiring intentionally in higher education. “Having a diverse workforce is just the first step,” she said. According to Michaux, higher education employers should ask themselves, “is our campus welcoming to members of the marginalized communities?” She explained that “all diversity matters,” throughout various groups, including the disabled community, the trans community, the gay community and more. “We should celebrate them all,” she said.  

The last topic Michaux discussed was consistency in cross-campus efforts. She explained that consistency builds trust because it “sends a message to our larger campus–faculty, staff and students – that these efforts matter.” She noted that higher education organizations should be proactive instead of reactive.  

Before closing, Mitchell asked Michaux if there was anything specific she has noticed about students throughout her time working in higher education in Northwestern PA. She explained that many of her students came from small towns that are lacking in diversity. While black and brown students often come from communities where everyone looks like them, she explained that both parties often experience culture shock in higher education.  

“Students currently at our campuses are lacking in these areas [DEI], and we only get better by facing what’s uncomfortable, not difficult, but uncomfortable,” she said.  

Elise Michaux can be reached with questions regarding diversity, equity and inclusion or other comments and feedback via e-mail at elise.michaux@gmail.com. The Lessons Learned: Diversity in Erie Higher Education Diversity Dialogue can be viewed here.  

Julia Carden, Music Editor and Social Media Director

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