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DiCE program brings doctoral student to the Plains

Clarissa Beavers is a second-year graduate student who balances her time pursuing a PhD in Administration of Higher Education, working in the Office of Communication and Marketing in the College of Liberal Arts (OCM CLA), and making the most of her free time. 

Beavers contributes to the communications and marketing efforts in CLA by working on a variety of projects in web design, accessibility, web analytics, search engine optimization, editing, document design and writing. She also focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and student recruitment and retention. 

Beavers, who graduated from Bowling Green State University (undergraduate) and Wright State University (master's degree), discovered Auburn through the DiCE program offered by BGPSA (Black Graduate and Professional Student Association).

"DiCE truly was an unforgettable experience that I recommend to anyone who’s first-generation, identifies in an underrepresented background, and wants to be in a community of scholars. This is how I found out about my program, and it’s really a great opportunity for students who identify from diverse backgrounds of all kinds," Beavers said. 

Read more about Beavers' path to Auburn, and about her views and experiences at Auburn to date. 

Would you please tell us about yourself? 
I grew up in North Alabama, a lil' place called Athens where folx value family and relationships matter most. It’s about 30 minutes east of Huntsville, and about two hours north of Birmingham. I’m a country girl who found herself in college in rural Bowling Green and bustling Dayton, Ohio, where I studied media business and higher education. For this last go round as a student, I’m in a doctoral program studying Administration of Higher Education with a focus on student recruitment and retention. Tapping more into psychology and anthropology, I plan to use my degree to write about all the mushy stuff we shy away from in higher ed while being on a public relations team.

How did you choose to attend Auburn for graduate school?
Ohio gave me a top-notch education, but I always knew I would come back home to the South, just wasn’t sure where. And though Auburn wasn’t my top choice, DiCE was the reason I chose to attend Auburn. I knew I could learn about higher ed pretty much anywhere, but I wanted to be closer to my family and be in familiar environments while I studied. Being a DiCE fellow, I felt empowered to be my whole self as a student, professional, and most importantly a scholar-practitioner. I saw the graduate students, who were here, giving permission to be authentic and transparent, and that was the type of community I was looking for. DiCE truly was an unforgettable experience that I recommend to anyone who’s first-generation, identifies in an underrepresented background, and wants to be in a community of scholars.

What has your experience been like, so far?
The experience has been interesting. And interesting can take a lot of forms, but in this context, it’s been a mixture of good and challenging. The good has been being back home, I call the whole South home, so being back has been the best, truly. Working in OCM for CLA has been amazing and gratitude exceeds words for the opportunity. While the challenges have been learning and engaging remotely. Since I’ve always been socialized and educated in group settings, being a distance learner was really hard for me. I would tell folx in class, even professors, that the whole Zoom learning was not good for me. And this spring semester was the most challenging of my collegiate career, but I’m surviving, like most grad students. So, on both hands, I’m grateful for everything I’ve experienced as it’s helped me understand myself, how I show up in spaces, and empowered me to use my words more.

As a doctoral student in higher education, do you think it’s important to advance diversity and inclusion in higher education? If so, why?
Absolutely, it’s muy importante. Most folx know, and see, the shift in college student demographics more than ever through the media, especially the socials. But it’s different to live it or advocate for it on a college campus. So, I think it’s important we recognize where we all stand, individually and collectively, in our perspective of DEI in higher education; then we can do what’s best for everyone on campus. It’s not just one person’s job to advance diversity and inclusion in higher education, it’s on all of us. And I think higher education has a duty and responsibility, to not only students, but the community as a whole to be the role model, the example, of what advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion could and should look like.

What are some of the strengths and challenges Auburn faces in its attempts to be more inclusive and diverse?
I’ve only been at Auburn for a short time, and I’ve seen a lot of things I grew up in. Like, just shrugging things off as “that’s just how it is” with much of the tensions we’re facing. And it’s hard to be in community with that mentality, so I’ve tried to see more of how did we get to this point rather than play the blame game. A lot of how Auburn attempts to be more inclusive and diverse comes from our society and the culture we’ve created. So, the strengths, from my frame, are the same challenges and vice versa. I can’t comment much since I’m new to the equation, but on the bright side, there seems to be a collective understanding we cannot move forward with the old frame. Overall, it’s encouraging to be here in the midst of it all.

What is something you wish you had known before starting graduate school?
I wish I would have known I’d really have to grow up. Most folx know I’m the goofy one of the bunch, because really...why be so serious. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can be a serious one, too, but I always operate from a childlike perspective. And being a doctoral student requires more seriousness than youthfulness. It requires much discipline, much focus, and a whole lotta grit, which I’ve always had, but something about this last go round is giving me senioritis type feels and it’s taking a lot more focus than I had anticipated.

Lastly, assuming you have any free time, what do you like to do for fun?
I am an advocate for free time, I’ve been thinking about making a t-shirt for it. Lol, I’m kidding. I listen to a lot of music, especially R&B and Neo-Soul. I love a spoken word event, and watching documentaries are my favorite. I love food, so I like to try new restaurants. I travel to visit family a good bit, too.

Tags: Students Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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