University of Southern California: Students flock to new program focused on justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity

What does it mean to share stories and narratives with each other as we operate this world through different lenses? What are the dangers of having a single story or single perspective about you? How might having an intersectional lens help you understand your position in society? These are some of the questions that begin the JEDI workshops that are now available for students and student organizations at USC.

In recent years, student leaders and student-run organizations across the university have expressed a desire for workshops, trainings and discussion opportunities on justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity. The Student Equity and Inclusion Programs, or SEIP, centers have hosted dozens of these opportunities for the larger campus community but are now shifting their focus to better support students and student organizations through the JEDI Peer Educator program, a space for students facilitated by students.

JEDI Peer Educators are trained student mentors who have the knowledge and tools to lead
peer-to-peer level discussions on JEDI-related topics. These workshops allow for student organizations and clubs to host conversations for their members, discuss how they might incorporate these values more concretely into their work and policies, and provide an opportunity for students to become leaders and support their fellow Trojans.

“It’s empowering to be in a space where I let students know I’m not an expert but I am someone who is continuously learning and applying,” said Antonio Okeke, a sophomore majoring in public policy.

With the help of graduate student Arianna Dela Rosa, SEIP has designed a foundational curriculum with five separate workshops that can be tailored to an individual student organization’s needs and that aim to be as inclusive as possible. So far, the workshop on microaggressions and bias has been the most popular request, but they anticipate more clubs and organizations will sign up as more students become aware of what the peer educators do and what services are offered by SEIP.

Various workshops on justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity aim to empower and educate
The other courses they offer discuss identity and intersectionality — an introductory-level workshop for those starting to learn about JEDI topics — as well as more focused courses on race, power and privilege, gender and sexuality, and economic justice and injustice. After a student group attends one of these workshops, JEDI educators are available to continue the conversation and provide space to process learning so that student leaders can implement inclusive and equitable practices and policies in their organization in tangible and impactful ways.

“Participants brought up examples of racial biases they experience as students and were empowered to think of how to make our campus more equitable and inclusive,” said Okeke after one of his discussions.

Sophomore May Song agrees. “There were a lot of fruitful and thought-provoking discussions around race, power and privilege,” she said.

Dela Rosa’s background in curriculum development has proven particularly useful as she has helped guide the structure and delivery of the workshop experiences and created a more concentrated approach to the curriculum. Of her work, she says, “It feels very grounding, building community with these peer educators. I can provide knowledge and mentorship to help them do the work that they do. It’s empowering, and I enjoy building this community with them.”

As interest grows, Dela Rosa and the SEIP team are excited to improve and add to the curriculum, partner with more groups on campus and build upon the initial conversations students discover in their diversity, equity and inclusion training during freshman orientation to create a deeper, more nuanced understanding and appreciation.

“We all came to USC to gain knowledge, so having the opportunity to share knowledge around justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is indescribable,” said Israa Al-Washally, a senior majoring in sociology.

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