Diversity Digest: Conquering Diversity Issues in Higher Education

At the 2012 NASFAA National Conference in Chicago, I attended a session entitled Come Out and Celebrate Diversity Awareness. Of course, because of my connection with the RMASFAA DMCI Committee, the word ‘diversity’ immediately caught my eye. After the challenging, educational and often humorous session, I spoke with the presenter, Marchello Johnson, asking whether or not he would be willing to act as a resource, trainer, etc. for other financial aid functions in other areas of the country. His wealth of knowledge and experience are tremendous and he has been very gracious with willingness to share. In the paragraphs below, Marchello tells us a bit about what the Illinois financial aid people (ILASFAA) are doing and perhaps can also give us some cues for opportunities. Although the particular session at NASFAA hinged around educating us, our colleagues and our students with regard to issues directly related to gender and sexuality, his expertise extends much further. If anyone is interested in more information about his NASFAA session, please contact Marchello directly.

Marge Michael, 2013 Chair
RMASFAA Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives Committee (DMCI)

As Financial Aid Administrators and University Professionals it’s our job to value diversity and show support for our students that we interact with daily. Because it’s our duty, it’s important for us to be as knowledgeable as possible on issues that may impact our students.  Even though University of Illinois at Chicago is an inner city campus, with people of different cultures, races, sexual orientations and more, breaking down barriers in diversity can still be difficult at times. But if you are willing to listen and learn then you’re on the right track.


As a member of ILASFAA’s Diversity Issues Committee, and also serving as the 2012-2013 Chair, I thought as a committee we would focus on diversity issues not commonly discussed, LGBTQ issues. My training from past universities and here at UIC, were perfect in helping to conquer these diversity issues. Here at UIC, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) does a great job in educating Faculty, Staff and Students. In order to bring awareness to any issue, gaining knowledge by educating one’s self is the first step to a better understanding.


Safe Zone trainings are geared towards creating straight allies, by offering activities which allow individuals to become more aware of LGBTQ issues and concerns. The training here at UIC usually gives an overview of the services and programs offered by the GSC, a presentation of terminology, resources, etc. and activities of self-reflection and small group discussions. The center also offers culturally specific Safe Zones geared towards African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latin Americans to name a few. These trainings provide a deliberate space for questions and vocabulary that may be common within those individual communities.


Our campuses are all unique in their own way. The four keys to building a bridge of diversity are simple. First, educate yourself by doing the research so that you have all the facts. Second, create training programs for the Faculty, Staff and Students on your campuses. Third, create outreach programs for Faculty, Staff, and Students on your campuses. Lastly, show support by being an advocate on and off campus.


Marchello A. Johnson

2012-2013 Diversity Issues Committee Chair


Marchello A. Johnson
Assistant Director

Accounts and Reconciliation
University Of Illinois at Chicago
Office of Student Financial Aid
1200 W. Harrison, MC 334
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: (312) 996-3126
Fax: (312) 996-3385
Email: marchelj@uic.edu

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