Report date
July 2021
Learning Log

I grew up watching the 80s cartoon, Transformers. The toys were amazing. Now my seven-year-old and I play with the new Transformer toys. Why is this relevant to my Bush Fellowship? Transformation.

This is what has surprised me about my leadership development through my Bush Fellowship journey. When I originally applied for the Fellowship, I was in a different position at work and was making solid progress on my dissertation. My journey and my story as a first-generation Puerto Rican college graduate has transformed given the support from the Bush Foundation.

The transition to a new full-time position has led to switching of an advisor in my doctoral studies (as I sought to effectively balance the dissertation), working full-time, and being a single father. This new transition has allowed me to hone and focus my diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) research into practice, and has ultimately described the paths that have led me to this point of becoming the new Senior Director of DEI in my organization, and in the final stages of my dissertation research.

I recognize that organizations and higher education institutions must play a key role in rebuilding and contributing to real and substantive social change. Listening and learning should be put in the context of organizational listening and learning. Coming out of the George Floyd tragedy and BLM movement, the paradigm of how to talk about race and society has shifted. There is less emphasis on DEI dialogs and more emphasis on rooting out systemic racism and being antiracist. This also shifts the accountability more fully to the side of leadership and establishes a new role in relation to addressing equitable outcomes.

In establishing this new DEI role, it is only through explicit exposure to potentially uncomfortable concepts, building relationships with people who are willing to challenge worldviews and compelling evidence of the injustice and unfairness that runs throughout the organization that institutions will be able to see what has been previously kept invisible. Moving forward – COVID 19 and systemic racism will require leadership positions to have a new focus.

This new DEI role is a necessary component for acknowledging and addressing systemic racism and creating a more diverse and inclusive culture. This transformation has taught me that I am stronger than I think. I am taking more chances in life, and I am seeing the fruits of my labor. With COVID-19 still present, I am impressed with how my organization is handling day to day operations. The senior leadership team is constantly providing me with support to develop my leadership skills in my new role.

As the Senior Director of DEI, my responsibilities include coordinating 280 faculty and staff education/trainings, developing internal working groups and affinity/employer resource groups, partnering with senior leaders to set the direction, managing, and coordinating DEI strategies and initiatives, and mentoring program leaders on addressing DEI issues in their domains.

My leadership development continues to deepen. I am now a qualified administrator (QA) of the Intercultural Development Indicator (IDI). I bring to this position a strong knowledge of intercultural competence, social justice, research, and education to guide programmatic and organizational change throughout my organization. Given the historic whiteness in organizations, I work to decenter whiteness in favor of overcoming structural racism and other oppressive ideologies that too often inhibit historically excluded communities from receiving opportunities. I will also begin selection of eight new QAs to lead IDI learning inside the organization. Under my guidance, the QAs will provide individual and group profile debriefs that include assessments.

In addition, I was named an American Express NGen Fellow for 2020, which entailed strengthening my leadership capacity that centers on six core results to further my practice of adaptive leadership, self-awareness, racial equity, system change, developing peer networks and using a results-based frame. I was in a cohort with other amazing people from historically excluded backgrounds. The transformation I went through this year of training is humbling. I have learned to let go of my imposter syndrome. This is a white construct that has nothing to do with who I am.

I bring my lived experience as a person of color who migrated from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States at the age of three and experienced the impact of systemic racism firsthand. My personal and professional journeys have led me to persevere in creating opportunities and challenging stereotypes to cultivate a successful future.

The Bush Fellowship has transformed my confidence in that my perspectives, professional expertise, and lived experience now bring an intentional focus to advancing efforts to cultivate an environment where everyone is welcomed, valued, and included. My path has not always been easy, nor has it been clear, yet my desire to test, expand, and push the boundaries of my field has fueled my persistence.