Earlier this term, Columbia University Human Capital Management M.S. candidate Lavar Matthews “accepted the call” to self-nominate to join SPS’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee. Since joining, he's been actively engaged; last month, he served as a panelist for a Power and Equity in Work Settings event at SPS. On Friday, May 6th, he and his fellow Student Representatives will hold DEIA Office Hours to speak with students about DEIA-related issues on campus. Matthews shares what inspires him to ensure that future generations inherit a more inclusive and equitable higher education as well as his plans for advancing DEIA on campus today.
What motivated you to nominate yourself for SPS’ DEIA Committee?
I absolutely couldn't let the opportunity pass to serve on this committee! DEIA is a real passion of mine and it’s directly relevant to my field of Human Capital Management. I nominated myself with the intent to make Columbia truly, a more equitable place for everyone. As a society — regardless of your specific background — we've only come as far as we have because people were willing to advocate for more people to be recognized and treated as equals, to have a seat at the table, and to receive equitable opportunities to succeed. We've come a long way, but this line of work is not yet finished. We cannot allow complacency to slow down progress. The torch needs to be passed on to those willing to accept the responsibility and commitment to advocate for and implement the values of DEIA; each generation should be inheriting an even more inclusive and equitable reality than the previous generation. I consider myself privileged to have accepted the call.
Is there anything that the committee is planning that you’d like to mention?
The Student Representatives on the DEIA Committee would like to hear from our student peers. Do you have questions or ideas that you’re not sure how to develop or get support for? Let’s talk about them. We’ve recently initiated office hours for students across programs to have honest conversations about DEIA on our campus; the next one is on Friday, May 6th at 12 Noon ET. RSVPs are being accepted on SPS Engage. In addition to this, the Student Representatives are looking to partner with faculty to promote inclusion efforts in our classrooms (virtual or in-person).
What’s one thing that any person can do to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the SPS community?
This is an awesome question. My decision to implement changes that promote DEIA does not come by virtue of my position on the committee; my sense of empowerment and social responsibility is generated by my passion to see others thrive and to simply remove barriers. In short, you must have an vested interest in people; you have to care about them and be willing speak up when necessary. People can sense authenticity and effort, especially with regard to their well being. I encourage people who are passionate about DEIA to participate in the many upcoming events hosted by the DEIA committee or the Career Design Lab. For example, we've created the DEIA Office Hours to receive and actually take into consideration your input and perspective. Even outside of events specifically branded under the committee could use your participation. I believe that any true DEIA event will provide individuals with the opportunity to provide input to improve campus and to learn new skills and methodologies for adapting inclusion within a space. Your presence at these events and your promotion of the events really helps the university.