Two women standing side by side

Boosting Equity: Two Blue Ridge CC employees attend North Carolina Equity Coaches training

Blue Ridge Community College employees Kirsten Hobbs and Rachel Adams recently participated in the Equity Coach Training Academy to learn more about equity, diversity, and inclusion and how they can better address these issues in their everyday roles at the College.

Blue Ridge was selected to participate in the training alongside 10 other North Carolina community colleges, each allowing two employees in attendance. The event was virtual via Zoom, and was hosted by Dr. Kara Battle with the North Carolina Student Success Center.

Each session had a different speaker and focus, with topics ranging from the importance of racial equity to how to implement equitable practices in higher education.

Overall, Hobbs and Adams attended six sessions, with the first beginning April 26, 2021, and ending on Sept. 13, 2021. Each session ranged from 2-5 hours.

“These can be difficult conversations that make people uncomfortable,” Hobbs stated. “But this sort of training really showed everyone how to discuss these topics in a way that’s inclusive of everyone.”

In addition to the colleges in attendance, other organizations were invited to participate such as the Guided Pathways Initiative, the NC State Belk Center, and the North Carolina Community College System Office.

Both Adams and Hobbs stated they were somewhat familiar with many of the topics discussed, but agreed they both learned a significant amount from the sessions, which even gave way to new ideas for promoting these traits in their jobs.

As an admissions counselor in Student Services, Hobbs is used to working with numerous students from a variety of unique backgrounds. She began studying equity outcomes in graduate school, and says she’s always had an interest in redefining justice for people with marginalized identities.

“Since most of my education and experience was completed in South Carolina, I learned quite a bit more about North Carolina-specific equity initiatives and data-driven hypotheses that can better inform our practices here at Blue Ridge and in the NC Community College System as a whole,” Hobbs added.

As a Nurse Aide faculty member, Adams said something that resonated with her during the training is the importance of data in identifying different equity gaps.

“Something mentioned in the training was that people in education can be unintentionally prescriptive when it comes to what courses minority students should take, so it’s important to gather their opinions – first and foremost – and ask them what support services they need, rather than assuming,” Adams said.

Something they both noticed in the training was the equity practices of their sister community colleges, and what has worked to increase student success, retention, and completion for students of color especially.

Since the training, Adams has started incorporating equity into her courses more regularly by now delaying any high-stakes assignments – such as tests – until after the fourth week of classes. She said this will ensure everyone, regardless of background, will have a fair shot at excelling in the course.

A particular goal of the training is to teach participants how to identify and redistribute “power” by determining what systems are in power, who they are empowering and who they are disenfranchising.

Hobbs believes one of the most common reasons many people do not speak up about inequity is because they feel uncomfortable discussing it, or simply don’t know how to approach it.

“You’re never going to know it all. There will always be changing data and research out there,” she added. “Since we wear a lot of hats, it’s great to know how to inclusively communicate with all manner of individuals.”

Approaching life by not being afraid to say “I don’t know everything, but here’s what I do know,” is the first step toward boosting equity in your workplace, according to Adams and Hobbs.

They also suggest you stay informed, whether that’s by joining a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion book club or attending an equity workshop.