Sarah Oleng’ is completing her M.S. in Strategic Communication. She is also a Student Representative of SPS’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee. Oleng’ describes what motivated her to join the Committee as well as her vision for a more inclusive communications profession.
What motivated you to nominate yourself for SPS' DEIA Committee?
We are all on a personal DEIA learning journey, and each of us contributes to achieving equity and inclusivity in different ways as we seek to learn and unlearn. I am for equity because equity starts with everyone. I believe that creating an open environment where everyone feels included and heard is a necessity. To achieve this, it is everyone's responsibility to do their part in making a change. I live by the saying, “change starts with you”,” which is why I took an interest in helping to achieve the mission of Columbia SPS’ DEIA Initiative.
As an international student, I have had the privilege of interacting with many different personalities and backgrounds, which has made me open-minded. I believe that everyone, irrespective of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. — deserves an open environment that fosters a sense of belonging and equity. Many people have already taken big steps towards achieving diversity and inclusion. I not only applaud them but look forward to working with like-minded people to make our environment even more inclusive.
How do you see DEIA transforming your field?
Diversity and inclusion is not just a smart business decision; it is necessary in order to empower all stakeholders. I am part of the communications industry, and we have had to evolve as technology, business, and stakeholders’ needs evolve. Based on a Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers say diversity is important to them; it is, therefore, necessary for communication departments to create strategic plans that affirm and accommodate diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The strategic communicator’s role is to create and uphold a mindful approach in the organization's language and communication style in all forums (in the office, classroom, or online channels, etc.).
Caption: MS Strategic Communication students Sarah Oleng’ and Niken Lasarati attend a program-sponsored dinner.
What's one thing that someone can do to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the SPS community?
The committee is in the process of creating safe spaces for students to share their ideas on what would make SPS more inclusive. For anyone interested in supporting DEIA initiatives, I recommend that they familiarize themselves with the new equity language guide that is available for all SPS communities. This Columbia SPS DEIA Guide enforces respectful language when communicating with each other or to external stakeholders. It also helps us learn how to embrace each other's differences in verbal and written communication. Putting the guide into action takes us a step closer to achieving an inclusive community.
In the coming weeks, we will share updates on events or projects that the SPS community can participate in. We also welcome anyone who has any DEIA-related needs to reach out to any committee member with suggestions or feedback.
Caption: Sarah Oleng attends a dinner for the Columbia SPS M.S. in Strategic Communication program