Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Advising Advice: How Does Advising Mix with Diversity and Inclusion?

Posted on October 22, 2016 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Margaret Brownlee, Advisor,

Please welcome the new USM Assistant Dean of students for Diversity and Inclusion. Her name is Mariana M. Cruz, and she has been featured online through the USM Office of Public Affairs and has been spotted all over campus from the Husky Fest to the Professional Senate. She is vibrant, intelligent and really good at what she does.

What does diversity and Inclusion mean? What are her plans for USM? In addition, how does this relate to advising? As a faculty advisor or professional academic advisor, this article is for you!

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, diversity is the quality or state of having many different forms, types and ideas. However, after speaking with Cruz, she explained that diversity is, “a representational term used to describe the composition of groups or identities.”

When we think about the University of Southern Maine, we see diversity in Portland, Gorham and LAC campuses. We see diversity among students, staff and faculty. It’s all over the place. On the other hand, Inclusion is the actual effect of diversity and how we account for and engage people in our various campus communities. Inclusion is, “how we value, honor, and validate different identities represented,” Cruz said.

In a nutshell, “Diversity is representational and Inclusion is affective.” She explained her goals and initiatives in three steps. First, bring the Multicultural Centers to the next level in terms of mission, vision, support. Second, develop a series of on-going dialogues related to race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. Third, continue to deliver cultural competency workshops and trainings for students, faculty and staff at USM.

Overall, Dean Cruz wants to support and recruit diversity at USM. Her goal is to support all of us and to work with community partners so that we can do this work together. Her main focus is to “build a strong institutional foundation so that we may continue to grow, flourish and thrive.”

How Do Diversity and Inclusion Relate to Advising?

Advising can be a resource-rich opportunity for students. Advisors offer students’ knowledge about USM and can empower students to make informed decisions. Advisors must listen to the student’s needs and understand that students have multiple identities (not just a student of color, not just a member of the LGBTQA identity). Advisors must acknowledge all of their identities and spend time learning and researching these identities as part of their professional development. Working specifically with underrepresented populations (race, class, sexual orientation, etc.) will require a little bit of education. This is competency-building and it takes time to learn, so when you don’t know, ask questions. Acknowledge that you don’t know and learn.

As faculty advisors, you can weave this information into your departmental meetings. As professional advisors, you can use it as professional development or talk about it during staff meetings. Remember to be fully aware and start with yourself. Think about your professional networks. Think about who supported you along the way. Think about the experience you’ve had and how it can connect to students. Remember to always ask questions and explore. All of this informs the way in which we advise students and this work is important.


Mariana M. Cruz, Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion

135J Woodbury Campus Center, Office of Campus Life (207) 780-5139

USM Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

Portland: 135 Woodbury Campus Center, (207) 228-8200

USM Office of Academic Advising

Portland: 137 Luther Bonney Hall, (207) 780-4040

Gorham: 119 Bailey Hall, (207) 780-4555

Lewiston: 119 Lewiston-Auburn College, (207) 753-6536

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