We’re excited to introduce you to some of the incredible DEI training facilitators that are part of the SGO team. We asked them to share what sparked their passion for this work, what DEI means to them, and why they do what they do. Meet Dr. Victoria Verlezza (she/her), DEI Facilitator!
What does DEI mean to you?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) means so many things to me. Diversity is the differences we all have ranging from age, to race, to gender, to sexuality, to class, to education background, to ability, the list goes on. Inclusion is creating environments that actively promote bringing all different types of people together. Equity is removing barriers for people that have been structurally put into place. For me, DEI work means that we are challenging individuals to interrogate the systems that we did not necessarily create but we operate within and that operate within us. DEI means to me that we are actively being intentional about asking questions about belonging and experience. DEI work helps us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
How do you come to this work? How did you learn it was necessary, and how did you get involved?
Goodness this is a hard one. I’ve always been into learning about difference and injustice. Holocaust and Genocide studies have been a special interest of mine since I was in single digits. But when I was taking classes in my undergraduate university and learning about differences. I remember being in my psychology of women course and we were assigned an article about white culture and women. I had no idea white people have a culture because as a queer woman I thought that was it, queer culture was my culture but I failed to realize there are other pieces of myself. I was mad because I was taught to be colorblind. I then started to notice all the things. I had my (racial) awakening through my social justice education master’s program and that’s when I knew social justice education work was not only my passion but my profession. Educating others in the areas that I had struggled with at once and am still learning in some areas was imperative. It wasn’t really a choice for me. Fast forward and I received my PhD in Human Development. I am a scholar-practitioner who grounds herself in social justice education, theory, and meeting people where they are. My dissertation focused on racial identity development of Gen Z and social media’s influence on that. My research focuses on social identities, human development theories, and technology/social media. Over the years, I’ve been able to converge all of my interests into my career.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for teams when beginning DEI work, and how can they overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is fear of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s so common. I often advise clients that once we figure out how to harness that fear and we start to lead with humility and grace, along with an open mind, we can manage those challenges.
What’s the most fulfilling experience you’ve had while doing this work?
Learning moments are the most fulfilling. When someone has a lightbulb moment or learns something or can articulate their own experience. I live for the moments where participants or clients or students connect the dots between what we are discussing and their own lived experiences.
What have you learned through your experiences in facilitating?
There is always something to learn! I love learning about myself through facilitating but I also love learning about others. Hearing their stories, learning about their lens. Thinking about their unique experiences in the world as well as the workplace. When someone shares their story with you, that’s a special moment for me as a facilitator; when I earn that trust.
What is one of your favorite resources related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and why?
Just one?! How do I choose!? I’m all about multiple mediums for information and I am all about making sure those mediums are diverse in perspectives and experiences. My guide for my work is Readings (or Teachings) for Diversity and Social Justice Adams, et al. It was one of the books from my graduate program and it is a favorite of mine because it covers all the ‘big 8’ identity categories in one place.
Learn more about the SGO team and our diversity, equity, and inclusion training offerings.
Now that you know more about our facilitators, learn more about working with us!