We are pleased to introduce Daviree Velazquez, Director of A Different Dialogue and Assistant Director for Diversity Programs in Georgetown’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA). Velazquez recently joined CNDLS as a Senior Fellow supporting CNDLS’ work in the areas of implicit bias, dialogue facilitation, critical race, identity issues, and student development theory. She also supports CNDLS’ work in Inclusive Pedagogy. In the future, she will liaise with faculty involved with the Doyle Program, and help develop and integrate core values in the Master of Arts in Learning and Design. We are excited to welcome her to CNDLS, and sat down with her to discuss her new role.
Daviree, thank you for talking with me today. Our first question is: what’s your current role? Can you give us an overview of your work and responsibilities?
I have the honor of serving as the Director of A Different Dialogue and as the Assistant Director for Diversity Programs in the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access. My primary responsibilities include overseeing diversity and inclusion as it relates to the holistic student experience. As the Director for A Different Dialogue, I focus on building a bridge between content exploration and self exploration. I oversee the University’s intergroup dialogue program, which invites undergraduate students to engage across difference through dialogue skill development. As the Assistant Director for CMEA, I provide consultation and training regarding diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, and social justice. The consultation I provide is for faculty, staff, and students. Also, in this role, I oversee multiple programs and initiatives including The Black House, La Casa Latina, Young Leaders in Education about Diversity, LEAD, the Student of Color Alliance, and the Liberatory Spaces Program.
What work is CNDLS doing that you’re particularly excited about?
My fellowship title with CNDLS is the Critical Scholar Practitioner Fellow. It’s a unique position, because unlike other CNDLS fellows, I don’t approach this work from the classroom. My background is student affairs, but similar to faculty, my practice is informed by theory and research. CNDLS and the Division of Student Affairs are always seeking opportunities that allow faculty, staff and students to work more collaboratively, which is what makes this fellowship so unique. My fellowship is specifically about improving the practices around diversity and inclusion, both in CNDLS and on campus. That brings me to the Inclusive Pedagogy team, which is where most of my interactions happen within CNDLS. I have been able to witness the growth of Inclusive Pedagogy, and I can see where it is going to continue to develop, specifically with the Masters in Learning and Design. I’m excited about everything that goes on at CNDLS! To just be in a space where collaboration is normalized, and collegiality is a priority… that’s unique, and I very much appreciate it.
You touched on this a little bit already, but you’re in a unique position as a member of Georgetown’s staff. Could you talk a little bit about the research you do in your role?
My work has always been grounded in the student experience. I approach the work through a student leadership theoretical perspective. In my work, that looks a bit more like student activism and student advocacy. The first piece that I ever published was on creating multicultural initiatives, both inside and outside the classroom so that students can engage and build up their leadership capacity and efficacy in a diverse world. Recently, I’m writing on how to rebuild hope in the leadership process. There’s a level of inspiration, motivation, and mission commitment that is required for leadership. In a day and age where it seems like outcomes need to be immediate, how do you engage in these movements for the long run? Especially for undergraduate students; most of them are here four or five years, so how do you commit to a cause or a movement where you might not fully see the fruits of your labor? This is even true for for faculty and staff; they say it takes seven years for culture change to really take movement, so how to do you commit to improving the climate when you may not be there for the effect? The piece I am currently working on is really teaching leadership and critical hope.
At Georgetown, I’m working on creating more access points for faculty who have not had the opportunity to have diversity and inclusion as a part of their training. Another project I am in the early stages of is an identity seminar for faculty who might say, “Students are using all this kind of language around self identity, and I don’t understand any of it. This wasn’t a part of my education.” It will probably be a cohort of about 10-12 and we’ll do identity development work. I’ve also been working on building cultural competency models that can be implemented, whether at faculty orientation or new staff orientation. These models will explore culturally competent work in a Jesuit context. Lastly, some of my work that’s coming to an end now is the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. As a group, we worked to learn, teach and preserve our history and identified ways to improve our future. All together, I believe my work will highlight the ways in which high impact activities, through a culturally competent lens, will improve the higher education experience for marginalized communities.
And finally, could you tell us a little about what you’re currently working on with CNDLS?
Right now, I’m working on a few sessions for this year’s Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI). One session is a review of the last five years regarding student activism on campus. We will review everything from disability studies to undocumented students, the sexual assault task force, GU272 and our relationship with slavery. My hope is that this session will illuminate all the ways our students seek change at Georgetown. We will also explore what student activism looks like in a national context in higher education. This session also includes a panel of faculty who were recommended by students as being some of the faculty that they can go to, the ones who use their positionality in order to promote and support whatever change the students are working towards. These faculty members will discuss how they navigate some of the tensions or bureaucracy around getting involved. There are a lot of faculty and staff who want to do this work around diversity and inclusion, but they are fearful and the fear is valid. So how do you become creative or build your own support systems to help overcome barriers? How do you support people who are able to be on the front lines when you cannot be? The second session I am co-leading is on our professional identity and how it intersects with our social identity, specifically our privileged and dominant identities. We will explore the ways our identities inform our interactions with colleagues and the ways we teach/practice. It will be a quick, hands on workshop around exploring who we are, and how we may be perceived.