American University School of Communication (AU SOC) celebrated its annual Inclusive Excellence Week in March. Recognizing the importance of continuously engaging in conversations centered on equity and diversity and promoting an environment of inclusion, the initiative aims to celebrate, educate, and empower the SOC community to embody this core AU value. The week was filled with a variety of events, from panels to informal opportunities to bring the community together to share personal stories, best practices, and gratitude, as well as discuss areas where there is work still to do.
The week started with a panel convened by professor Sherri Williams titled "Class on Campus: Exploring Income Inequality at AU," featuring speakers Jessica Thompson and AU Associate Director for Student Equity, Access, and Retention, Quin Merriweather. The discussion revolved around disparities in the opportunities available at AU based on financial contraints or lack thereof, the barriers economically disadvantaged students face, and the announcement of a new SOC Emergency Student Fund, designed to support students through short-term economic hardship.
Tuesday included many significant events. The first was a morning "Donuts and Discussion with the Dean" event (pictured left), which had a fantastic turnout and was a collaboration between the DEI Committee and the Dean Sam Fulwood III, offering in-person encouragement and quick snacks for students during midterms.
An afternoon panel on "Trans Life at the University" that featured (pictured left to right) Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Philosophy Perry Zurn, Associate Professor Department of World Languages and Cultures Juliana Martinez and AU Pride President Cheyenne Smith was a wide-ranging and lively conversation touching on trans life at AU and spotlight on college campuses, K-12 institutions nationwide, and internationally. Several students and faculty members asked questions around how to be a better ally to the trans community, how trans students can identify supportive faculty and staff, and what steps can be taken at the University level to become a leader in trans inclusion in higher education.
In the evening, SOC hosted "Arts Salon: Creative Contributions to Culture," featuring images from SOC's fine art photography fall 2022 class exhibition titled "Identity" led by commentary from photography program director Professor Leena Jayaswal. SOC also hosted a musical performance by La Marvela (pictured left), an all-women Cumbia music group that seeks to balance equal gender representation in music. Professor Aram Sinnreich coordinated the appearance as part of his Out of Our Shells: A Celebration of Homegrown DC Music project.
Across campus, AU’s Kennedy Political Union (KPU) and SOC co-sponsored a conversation with Nabela Noor moderated by Professor Priya Doshi. A prominent influencer on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, Noor creates uplifting content for her audience of more than 8 million people
On Wednesday, AU Public Relations Student Society of America held a panel discussion, "Celebrating Student Excellence at AU: Focus on Student Media Leaders," (pictured right) moderated by Professor John Watson, which was well-attended and featured students who work for several student media outlets across campus, promoting a more inclusive student experience. Dr. Watson led the panel in a discussion ranging from representation in Oscar-nominated films to how these student journalists saw their roles within a DEI context.
Thursday wrapped up Inclusive Inclusive Week with an "Instagram Pop-Up with the District of Inclusivity (DOI)" called "Reel Belonging." DOI is a group of student DEI ambassadors who engaged with fellow students to learn what makes them feel welcome at AU, how they define DEI, and how they work to make the AU experience inclusive for others.
The SOC DEI Committee is incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed and participated in the DEI's 2023 Inclusive Excellence week.
Earlier in the school year, SOC hosted a packed preview screening of the acclaimed film, She Said to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the #MeToo Movement. The film is based on the book by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor whose stories chronicled Harvey Weinstein's systemic sexual misconduct and helped launch an era of accountability for sexual misconduct. The film was followed by a great discussion with Beth Reinhard, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter at The Washington Post. She discussed her investigations of former Alabama Superme Court Justice Roy Moore's abuse of young women and the Washington Commanders' hostile work environment for women. Williams, who coordinated the event with NBC Universal, said, "I am very grateful for the support of this event and the opportunity to supplement our students' education with such an important film about contemporary history and investigative journalism. "
SOC is proud to play a part in creating and sustaining an equitable and inclusive community at AU.