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The Ally Spotlight is a new project from the Diversity Committee designed to celebrate staff, faculty, + students who have taken the initiative to develop their allyship skills to help foster a more inclusive department. This month, we are featuring staff member Maggie Jensen, who is the Graduate Affairs Coordinator for the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Maggie started working in the department in August 2013. She has completed the Mental Health First Aid, HAVEN, SafeZone, Greenzone, Carolina Firsts, + UndocuCarolina trainings.

Why were you interested in taking these trainings in the first place?
In addition to being a requirement for my role in the department, I was motivated to enroll in these trainings so that I could identify ways to better serve our students. Because each training is focused on a specific population, the trainings heightened my awareness of the demands some students experience, which puts me in a better position to offer support.

Which trainings have you done that stood out the most to you? And why?
I certainly benefited from each training, but Greenzone and UndocuCarolina stick out to me right now. I’ve worked with several students who were active-duty members or veterans, but I did not fully realize all of the challenges they can face when integrating back into civilian life. The Greenzone training really enriched my perspective, and it was helpful that they included representatives of each military branch. UndocuCarolina also stands out because citizenship and documentation status are such pressing political issues right now with the current administration. I wanted to know how to best serve students who might be in that situation and make sure that I can provide those students with the best possible resources.

What were your biggest takeaways from these trainings? How have they changed your work practices?
One of the biggest takeaways from these trainings was that there are tangible things I can do to help students with various experiences or needs. For instance, Mental Health First Aid instructed us how to guide students toward helpful services in times of need and if desired. HAVEN provided us information about resources that could be offered to students who disclose information about experiencing victimizations. Together, the trainings have increased my confidence and strengthened my ability to support students who come to me for support.

What trainings do you wish you could see available?
Trainings centered on diversity more broadly, including first-generation college students, students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with various racial/ethnic identities. It is important to understand and cultivate humility toward the experiences and needs of students with diverse backgrounds and identities, especially in departments that traditionally draw a relatively homogeneous set of students and faculty.

What would you recommend to department members who want to get more involved with these?
I think we all have periods of downtime within our jobs, which can offer valuable opportunities to engage in these trainings. For me, the best time to enroll in trainings is when students are on break but staff are still working on campus (e.g., fall break, spring break, during final exams). It is definitely worth the effort to carve out time to complete these trainings.

If you would like to nominate someone for the next Ally Spotlight, please contact Jhon Cimmino at jhonc@email.unc.edu.

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