NACA BLOG - Cultivating a Sense of Belonging - 6/23/2020
diverse group of college students


June 23, 2020​
Sarah Keeling, Ph.D.
NACA Director of Education & Research

"To create college communities where everyone belongs." That's a bold vision for a small association, but one I firmly believe in. NACA proclaims that Black lives matter and supports Pride Month, which makes me proud to work for this association. Practitioners, however, need more than just statements. You need tools to help you professionally navigate the sometimes unclear, often emotionally fraught world we are living in. One tool NACA has to help you create communities where everyone belongs are the NACA® Competencies for Diversity and Inclusion

The NACA® Competencies for Diversity and Inclusion were released in 2017 after the work of a diversity and inclusion task force. The competencies are not meant to be used as a checklist, but rather as a guide for personal and professional development. What are some ways you can utilize the competencies to help guide your work?

Regularly discuss the competencies with staff and students.

  • Where are we excelling and where can we improve?
  • What organizational barriers exist that keep us from excelling?

Include the competencies in program planning.

  • From event design to assessment, and all steps in between, refer to the competencies.
    • Do your marketing images include image descriptions?
    • Are your facilities accessible?
  • Regularly take a step back and look at the big picture to ensure your events appeal to a variety of students, not just the ones you see regularly.

Include the competencies in after-action reviews.

  • Incorporate the competencies in your after-event assessments. Where did you meet the mark and where did you fall short?
  • Challenge your team to take another step toward accessibility or inclusivity the next time they do an event.
    • For example, this year's show included a front seating area for attendees with physical disabilities for the first time. Next year, plan to also include a sign language interpreter.

Use the competencies for points of discussion during employee reviews.

  • Again, the competencies should not be used as a checklist, but rather a starting point for discussion.
  • Set goals with your employees of ways to improve upon one of the competencies in the upcoming year.

Share the competencies with upper administration

  • This shows them what you value. It also shows them what they should value.

Share the competencies with student leaders (along with the Student Leadership Competencies)

  • This helps you set your expectations for the students.
  • Help student or student boards set goals based on the competencies.

Use the competencies to have hard conversations with yourself and others

  • In what ways do you benefit from your identity?
  • In what ways do your actions or inactions further marginalize folks on campus?
  • What barriers exist because of institutional bureaucracy and how can you help marginalized folks navigate or dismantle it?

Ultimately, ask yourself how are you using the power of your position or your identity to affect real change on your campus? Be sure to check out the Diversity and Inclusion resources on our website.

#BlackLivesMatter #PrideMonth2020

Sarah Keeling, Ph.D. serves as director of Education & Research for the National Association for Campus Activities and has over 20 years of higher education experience. Her dissertation, "The Influence of the CAS Standards on Academic Advising Programs That Utilize the Standards," received the Southern Association for College Student Affairs' Dissertation of the Year award.

Related Professional Competency: Cultivating a Sense of Belonging


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