“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
– Barack Obama
For the student members of the Fox School and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE) Council, this message is particularly resonant. The DEI Council advocates for the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of its workforce, student body, curricula, operations and culture.
The student council is comprised of graduate students Jordan Thomas and Djavon Dupree and undergraduates Diamon Hunter and Dane Simms. All four students highlighted that their drive to work in the DEI space comes from a desire to have more people who look like them be in leadership positions. They want to create sustainable, meaningful change for non-white students who move through the Fox School after their time. With their participation in the council, they are also awarded a financial stipend.
“I am a product of initiatives like these. I had an internship at the Texas Rangers that was part of a DEI initiative to increase the participation and visibility of people of color within the front office of major league baseball,” says Jordan Thomas, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Sport Business with a concentration in Athletic Administration. “I gained so much from that experience, being able to work across three different departments—it opened my eyes to the opportunities I could pursue after grad school. That was a huge motivation for me to get involved in the DEI space.”
“I want to help provide more opportunities for people like myself,” Thomas continues. “That’s the basis of the conversation I want to bring to the table. How can we get more individuals who look like me in positions where there’s representation because that matters?”
For the undergraduate students, their position on the council is the first step in that direction—working in a leadership position that offers the experience and the opportunity to impact the culture where they are living, learning and working.
“Bringing real change into these spaces in a productive way is something I really wanted to do. I have heard from a lot of people that they didn’t get involved in the DEI space until something like six, seven years into their careers. The fact that there was an opportunity at Fox to have a leadership position in this type of work really sparked my interest,” says Dane Simms, Class of 2022 Economics major with a minor in Legal Studies at the Fox School.
The students are shaping their professional lives, but are also motivated by their personal experiences navigating within a business school where they are underrepresented. In their first year at the Fox School, students like Simms or Class of 2022 marketing major Diamond Hunter could not find many other classmates who looked like them.
“I was struggling a lot my freshman year. I didn’t feel like I had anyone around me who understood my experience as a minority,” says Hunter. “I was contemplating leaving the business school when I was pulled aside by finance professor Wayne Williams, who introduced me to the Temple chapter of NABA (the National Association of Black Accountants). It was there that I met and networked with students who could speak to my experience.”
Hunter later served as the president of NABA. When she saw the opportunity to serve on the council, she jumped at the chance to help her school make strides to be more inclusive and reflective of its student body.
A Temple undergraduate currently working towards a Master of Science in Sport Business with a concentration in Sport Marketing and Promotions, Djavon Dupree was also driven by her personal and professional experiences as a student-athlete.
“Most of my life, I’ve been a minority within either the academic space or the sports space,” Dupree says. “I will continue to be a minority as I navigate through life. I have been a part of many conversations that talked about diversity—I want to say diversity because equity and inclusion were never included—that were a lot of talking and not a lot of doing. I saw this as a chance to better my knowledge on the subject of DEI, and to not just talk about it, but to do something about it.”
The council has a variety of short- and long-term goals, including getting started with programming. For example, the group is working on a social positioning activity. Simms was inspired by a course taught by Jennifer Pollitt, assistant director of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the College of Liberal Arts.
“The goal of a social positioning activity is to make participants realize that they have more power than they think, in spite of marginalized identities. I walked out of that class with a totally different perspective on how I see DEI and privilege,” says Simms. “Building that self-awareness is something we want to establish within the council, and we want to filter that program out to students and faculty.”
The long-term goals, much like those established by the Fox Strategic Plan 2025, are to craft plans that offer students the best possible business education and outcomes, regardless of their background or means.
“There are lots of goals we have in supporting the wider North Philadelphia community, but internally, I just want to foster a community of belonging,” says Dupree.