The university’s Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion program is hard at work

The student body asked for promotion of diversity and inclusion, and the university responded, creating the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) program in the fall of 2020.

The program includes paid ambassador positions open to undergraduate and graduate students at the university. Under the direction of Alvin Tran, assistant provost for inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, the current eight JEDI ambassadors work towards projects that support these values.

According to Tran, some projects these students have been working on include ensuring that preferred names are used on legal and marketing material and creating a Lavender Graduation Ceremony. The ceremony is a celebration and recognition of members of the LGBTQ+ community for earning their respective degrees, while the project with current names stems from errors by the marketing department where given names were used on media announcements.

“It serves as a model for why including the student voice in decision-making is pivotal in making positive changes on campus,” Tran said in a University of New Haven article.

Daniel Stott, criminal justice and national security ’21, attested to the value of students being the ones to facilitate these changes.

“It allows students to be the driving force behind change at the University, and it can show all students that our voices mean something,” said Stott. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be achieved solely by a small group of people – it is a result of the actions of the entire campus community.”

In addition to big-picture issues, JEDI Ambassadors are also working towards change within specific colleges and communities. Jennifer Edwards, forensic science ’21, has been working on enhancing diversity within the Henry Lee College and modifying the curriculum within the race & ethnic studies minor within the English department.

“Each college and school has different concerns related to DEI, and it’s important to have representation in each of them to make sure the voices of students are heard and addressed,” said Edwards.

During a Nov. 13 meeting with the Undergraduate Student Government Association, Tran said that they are hoping to expand the program and are eager for student applicants. Tran also encourages students to continue applying, even if they did not receive the position this year.