Geeking Out about Educational Equity and Career Development with JAKE Small from Leadership Brainery

Home Resources Geeking Out about Educational Equity and Career Development with JAKE Small from Leadership Brainery
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

On this episode of the podcast, Rachel Murray and Felicia Jadczak interview JAKE Small, the director of strategic alliances at Leadership Brainery. They discuss his journey in education, his focus on leadership development, career coaching, and equity initiatives. The conversation also delves into educational equity and how institutions can support underrepresented groups, especially students.

About The Episode Transcript

How can we bridge the widening gap in higher education and create a more equitable system? Join us for an insightful conversation with JAKE Small, the Director of Strategic Alliances at Leadership Brainery, as we explore the challenges faced by students from low-income backgrounds and communities and the role of institutions in providing fee waivers and tuition limitations. We also discuss JAKE's personal experiences as a mono-racial Black student attending predominantly White institutions and the importance of representation and inclusion in higher education.

In this episode, we dive deep into the work of Leadership Brainery and their efforts to operationalize social justice through leadership development, career coaching, and equity initiatives. We examine the stark statistics of the number of Black men in medical school throughout the years, emphasizing the need for a more equitable educational system. We discuss the significance of partnerships and open conversations to support those in need, as well as the idea of fixing a broken system versus burning it to the ground and building something new.

Lastly, we geek out about art, creativity, and family legacy. We learn about the importance of core values, self-care, and podcasts in shaping his journey as an educational consultant. Don't miss this compelling episode packed with valuable insights and inspiring stories from JAKE and his work at Leadership Brainery!

0:00:08 - Rachel Murray Hey Felicia! 0:00:10 - Felicia Jadczak Hi Rachel! 0:00:11 - Rachel Murray It's still June. 0:00:12 - Felicia Jadczak It is still June, although it feels like it's June. What Yeah? 0:00:17 - Rachel Murray it feels like it's summer. Summer is happening, although I will say here on the West Coast is gloomy like aggressively gloomy. 0:00:26 - Felicia Jadczak Seattle vibes. I was going to say I've heard that in San Diego you have June gloom. Is that right, Correct? And May gray as well, Oh, May gray. 0:00:36 - Rachel Murray I know It's been gray. So what typically will happen is there's a marine layer and then, usually by somewhere between like noon and two, it goes away, and then it's nice and sunny, and then you get like and then sort of rolls back in in the evening. But lately it's just been like the clouds are like we're just here, we just want to stay, they just want to hang out. They're like it's 2023. Let's do this. The clouds are here to stay, it's true, but that's okay. It actually makes for wonderful running weather, so I'm not too sad. That's nice Yeah. 0:01:08 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, now it's been nice here in Western Mass and the opposite side of the country although I've just gotten back from a little vacation, so I'm getting used to not being on the ocean. But I went for a nature walk earlier today and it was just really nice to see all this stuff blooming and everything's growing, and I have little baby birds that have nested in my fern that's hanging outside my back door. So there's, i think, six of them. Oh, my gosh, six little babies, and I'm really excited. So I've decided that the fern is going to die because I don't want to disturb the babies. So give one life for six other lives, but parents are real good about it. I was really impressed because I climbed up today and I was curious how many there were, and there were six. But one thing I will say, though, which is completely unrelated to anything that we do or talk about typically, but I do want to share because it's kind of funny on this topic of birds. So these birds have been building their nest for a while. What I find hilarious is that every time we open and close the back door, the parents just dive away. They're like F these babies, i'm out of here, everyone for themselves, and I just think that's the funniest thing. They're like very diligent parents, but when it comes to saving their own skin, they're like I'm out of here, peace, goodbye. I mean that is life. 0:02:23 - Rachel Murray I feel like it's very related to our work And it's funny that you say that actually because we had two birds that were hanging out. They looked like they wanted to like set up shop right on our porch. But I got really nervous not just because the level of bird poop that was like covering our porch. I was like, okay, i will sacrifice for that. But I started to worry that, like what happens if, like one of the baby birds dies? Like I don't think I can handle it. So we put a little thing on there And then the next day they came around to the other side where we had an open window, and they just stared at us for like 10 minutes. 0:02:57 - Felicia Jadczak They were like we see what you did. 0:02:59 - Rachel Murray They do And at first I was like, oh my God, this is amazing. We're having this moment with these two birds are just like watching us, maybe like our great and great uncle, like died, like recently, maybe it's them like they're assigned from beyond. I was like they're reincarnated and his birds is amazing. And then, like talking with our team about it, it was like no 100%. These were pissed off birds. 0:03:20 - Felicia Jadczak They were throwing some shade at you and they're like they are not picking up or putting down. Correct, They were really displeased with us. 0:03:28 - Rachel Murray So that's also my bird story. It's the season and I've seen a lot of little ducklings. Yeah. 0:03:34 - Felicia Jadczak Well, i sadly inadvertently killed some eggs last year because, again, like I had all these hanging ferns and I hung it in the front and I didn't water it for a week. and I went to go water it and I saw a little nest with eggs and I was like, oh my God, so cute. So I left the fern to get some water and also I want to take some pictures And then when I came back the wind had blown it off the porch and the eggs had fallen into bushes. I tried to put them back. I think one survived. but I've had some bad luck with inadvertently killing eggs, so that's why I was like I'm not going near these babies this time because I want them to live. So it was really only today and you can kind of see them. So I just wanted to climb up and see how many there were. So I was like look, no touch, just looked and it was. they were very cute, so stay away. 0:04:25 - Rachel Murray Don't breathe on them. 0:04:27 - Felicia Jadczak I was like, not going to touch, not going to even try to water this plant. The plant is dead. It's fine, i will deal with it. 0:04:34 - Rachel Murray It's going to be great. I think that that's great. Don't keep killing birds, i'm going to try my best not to. 0:04:40 - Felicia Jadczak So you know, that's my, i guess my yearly goals, your annual goals. Don't kill birds unless you're already dead and packaged in the supermarket. 0:04:48 - Rachel Murray So anyway, I'm like, how are we going to transition this There? 0:04:53 - Felicia Jadczak is no transition. So we're just going to do a hard, fast cut into what we're talking about today. Love it. No connection at all, but we are really excited for today's episode. So we spoke with Jake Small, who is the director of strategic alliances at Leadership Brainerie, and we geeked out about a ton of stuff, including educational equity and how institutions can help support and sustain cultures belonging for underrepresented groups, especially students. 0:05:18 - Rachel Murray So lovely conversation. It was. It was a lovely conversation. We hope you enjoy. 0:05:25 - Felicia Jadczak All right, Hi Rachel, Hey Felicia And hi Jake. We are so excited to have you here podcasting with us today for listeners. Our guest today is Jake Small, who is the director of strategic alliances at Leadership Brainerie. Hi, Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us. 0:05:44 - JAKE Small Felicia, thank you, and it's an honor to be here. Rachel, great to be here with you both. 0:05:49 - Felicia Jadczak All right, we have a lot to get into, jake, we do. We're going to like just dive on in. So first of all, i want to start us off by just saying that when you talk about yourself on the internet because I did do a little bit of research on you in addition for just all the back and forth and getting ourselves prepped to go for this conversation So you describe yourself as an educational consultant focusing on leadership development, career coaching and equity initiatives, and up until this past year, you really spent a good chunk of your career in higher ed. So I would love you to talk to us about your journey. 0:06:22 - JAKE Small Yeah, certainly. So I guess I'll start my story a little earlier than most probably would. And that is when I was around 12 or 13 years old and I decided that I wanted to be an educator. And at the time I thought I wanted to be a middle school teacher. And then I got into high school and I said, no, this is for me, i want to be a high school teacher. And then I got into college and I said, okay, forget everything I said before. I want to work with high school, going into college or just college students in general, and I think that's because I've always enjoyed being an educator alongside my peers, right Peer to peer education. I think it can be such a viable way of moving momentum around a myth or a product or getting folks to be inspired. And so I decided I was going to get a degree in education at some point in my future a very young age, and it wasn't new for my family. I come from a family of educators And so in a lot of ways I was walking in their footsteps. But I got my undergraduate degree in communication and Spanish because I knew that I would go off to get a master's of education somewhere at some point in time I didn't know that would be direct matriculation from undergrad directly into graduate school. So I said it's the university from Mott. I got my master's education from there. I launched into my career as a higher ed professional, focusing primarily in career education and even more specifically within that around career equity. Focusing on ensuring that underrepresented students right black and brown students, low income students first in the racing college goers had really, really awesome career outcomes. Right. How are we ensuring that black and brown students are landing really wonderful internship opportunities and then are able to pursue them? right, because it's one thing to get an offer and opportunity, but if an opportunity is low funded or not funded at all, can you really take it on? And so I got agitated, i got disturbed, i got inspired, like a lot of activists, to change the way that higher education was working from a career perspective. So I spent a couple of years working higher education before now making this shift into the leadership brainering, and now in my career I can call myself an independent workplace equity consultant. I've gotten to do some really awesome career equity training, leadership empowerment training, hr training can work out for a number of different companies, both within higher education and outside of it, got to work with some awesome fintech companies a couple of years ago and some corporate spaces just to help them to do what I call operationalized social justice. This is one thing. To write a diversity statement, it's another thing to create truly emancipatory practices within your, within your program or company that changes the experiences of your clients or students, your employees, et cetera. And so my journey, i guess, has been a winding one through this full time career as a higher professional, but also as a workplace equity consultant. As a public speaker, i'm an aspiring author, which I am, i'm getting more comfortable saying out loud and posting about on social media, because the more people who know that have come in, the more people who can hold me accountable. And so please, this time next year, ask me, jake, where's that book you said you were writing? But also I'm a senior leader at Leadership Brainery, which is a Boston based nonprofit. I'm still going to get into that a little bit more. 0:09:29 - Rachel Murray Perfect. Yeah, i wanted to ask more about leadership brainery, but even just before that just amazing journey. Thank you so much for sharing that And I love we've been taking some notes. It's just. It's so impressive All of your work and I love that you were also inspired by your family, too, to be in this space. But I want to dig into operational social justice I love that phrase And leadership brainery. Like what does leadership brainery do? 0:09:54 - JAKE Small For sure. Yeah, so you know, i was frustrated, like I mentioned before, and I think that a lot of activists enter activism from a place of what they know right, and so I think it's important to name for all the listeners that I am a monoracial black professional, i'm an openly queer professional, i'm a disabled professional, and I wear all these identities into my life, right Into my work as an employee, and so for me it's important to be identity centered, identity focused. I was frustrated, like I mentioned before, by the fact that there's such incredible amounts of underrepresentation and let's name it overrepresentation in the higher education space in a lot of corporate sectors. When I say under an overrepresentation, i do mean around race and ethnicity, i mean around gender in some regards, i mean sexual orientation, et cetera. Right, and so working within individual institutions never gave me the scale or scope that I was looking for. So working at leadership brainer, i'm able to touch so many more students and support their journey, especially those folks who I see myself represented in. Leadership brainer is a 501c3 nonprofit organization where we're addressing inequitable access to masters and doctoral degrees, as well as workforce leadership opportunities for underrepresented communities. We know a lot of things right, and we know that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has named the fastest growing segment of the workforce our jobs that require a master's degree or higher at entry level entry level, right. And so if Black and Brown students, low income students, first-generation college scores are going to be competitive but also disqualified for these really awesome career outcomes, they need access to graduate school. And so that's what leadership brainer is addressing, that's what we're charged with doing. We need more Black and Brown lawyers and doctors and dentists and therapists and professors. Right, you might not need an MBA to be a CEO, but it's an accelerated pathway to that management or leadership opportunity. And so the work of diversifying the workforce has at least something to do with academic credentials, and that's what we're really tackling at leadership brainer. 0:12:00 - Felicia Jadczak It's like such good problems to deal with and not that good in the sense that they exist, but these are important things to be working on. So I love hearing about the work and I know we're going to get into it a little bit further. But I also want to circle back to something, a phrase that you used earlier, where you talked about emancipatory practices, and I can imagine how that's very closely tied into the work that you and Leadership Brainerie are focused on. But I was wondering if maybe you could talk a little bit more about what that actually means to you, because I think in this space that we're talking about especially when you're talking about folks who are already familiar with being marginalized and having marginalized identities sometimes these phrases make a lot of sense to us, but when we shift into the corporate world, which is where you want people to get into after they go into their higher ed so higher ed and corporate they might not necessarily think about or talk about those phrases in quite the same way. So I would love for you to maybe dig into that a little bit further. 0:12:57 - JAKE Small Certainly, certainly, and thanks so much for asking. So when I think about emancipatory practices, i think about something that's truly systemic and structural right, something new, likely, something that's radical, something that also is leveraging all of the thing personnel, time, energy, money, right, money money is so important. I think that educational equity is an emancipatory practice, and so I'll talk about that a little bit. I've changed my definition of what educational equity is a number of times. I think that's okay. Hopefully y'all give me some grace, but I think it has something to do with the redistribution of resources to ensure that each and every person can achieve their fullest academic potential. It has something to do with recognizing and grappling with centuries and centuries and centuries of inequity and centuries of systemic oppression. The equity collaborative, which is an organization that's fairly new to me. They have a really awesome definition And they write that educational equity is eliminating the predictability of one success as based on their identity. So right now we can look at folks based on their racial, ethnic group or their gender and predict how likely they are to either graduate from undergrad or pursue a graduate of all of the degree. We can look at how often or what percent of person-raising college goers end up pursuing a master's or doctoral degree, but what we can do is sort of predict how likely someone is to get a really awesome job if their right hand or left handed, if they have some of these other less thought about identities, and so I think that educational equity is this redistribution of power, but it's also it's aspiring towards a world in which folks have equal career outcomes, academic outcomes, regardless of the financial means they had access to with a child or the type of public school they went to an elementary school. These are still things that we can use as data points to predict someone's long term professional success, and that's not fair. That's not fair, and so I think it has something to do with that. When I think about a master's or a practice on the corporate side, i think about simply putting your money where your mouth is. I think comparatively easy to write a diversity statement or to hire someone in a DEI role, as compared to reworking your policies to ensure that they're supporting a habitable landscape for underrepresented employees and staff members. So that means revisiting what you've done for the last 10, 15, 20 years, 100 years. Some of the institutions that I've gotten to work at have been around for 200 years, 300 years, and they operate in very similar ways to how they did when they were conceived, when they were incepted. In higher education we talk about the unchanging academy, the ways in which it largely hasn't changed from when Harvard University was founded in 1636. We still have faculty stand in front of the classroom and pour into these empty vessels that are students who know nothing. But that's not true. Students know a lot of things. Our commencement looks the same, our convocations look the same, the ways in which school works looks largely the same. Of course, there's some new pieces, some schools that give all their incoming first-year students Chromebooks or whatever it is, but things are largely the same, and that's not how it should be. We need to think about some radical ideas that change the everyday experience of people. 0:16:17 - Rachel Murray Well, I think that higher education has changed so much because it's impossible to pay for it now. So if anything, it's gotten even worse. So you have a big hill to climb with the work that you're doing. 0:16:33 - JAKE Small That is so true, rachel, and we're working with a lot of students and telling them hey, you should aspire to the highest position, but it's not lost when it's telling a student from a low-income background or a low-income community that you have to go pay more money to get an advanced degree. It's sort of ridiculous, and so we get in front of that in all the ways that we can, by partnering with institutions that are willing to provide fee waivers and tuition limits and benefits. Tell us opportunities. We're doing what we can, and, like the Minton, i think it was in 2013,. We had the trillion-dollar problem, where US student loan debt surpassed the trillion-dollar, and then, just six years later, we had, i think, 1.6 or 1.7 trillion dollars, and so this gap is widening. It's even worse than it was a generation ago. 0:17:20 - Rachel Murray Yeah, And I really want to get out of my soapbox, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to avoid that and just ask a follow-up question that is related to this, which is we sort of talked a little bit about the money challenges, but I would love to hear what are some other challenges that folks are dealing with when it comes to this gap. 0:17:38 - JAKE Small Right, yeah, so, like I mentioned before, i am a mono-racial black professional. That means I was also a black student on both an undergrad and grad school, and I attended two different predominantly white institutions. And my second institution was in the state of Vermont, which is a very, very white state, progressive as it is. It was just challenging to find racial and ethnic affinity in the community. I wanted so deeply to be taught by a dozen black professionals or professionals of color. I wanted to have faculty who I could see my own lived experiences in, but I didn't always get that Right. So that social piece is huge. Leadership Brainerie is so proud of the fact that we're getting to tackle a lot of the issues alongside the students we're working with, one of which is that social community piece. We have an online platform called Dear Future Colleague that connects hundreds and hundreds of current and prospective graduate students to each other from around the entire nation. Folks who might be one of the only or few in their graduate program aren't the only in that academic industry or field of study nationwide, right, so it's so powerful to be able to connect a black man studying medicine from the East Coast to another black man studying medicine from the West Coast, or two folks studying law or business from Harvard and Tufts or Northeastern, and again, look to your left and look to your right and don't see anyone who look like them We're from where they're from who have the background that they have, who love like they love Right. What's scary you know we mentioned this widening gap is that not only is school getting more expensive and more financially accessible, we're also seeing some other really awful trends and patterns Right Now. I did a little bit of research before this call and in 1978, 1978, a whole bunch of years ago, i guess I probably shouldn't say that. 0:19:25 - Rachel Murray It's okay, i was three, it's fine. 0:19:27 - Felicia Jadczak We're listeners. There was definitely a luck, but it's okay, we'll get over it. 0:19:32 - Rachel Murray He's like oh my God, how old are these people? that I'm talking to right now. 0:19:37 - JAKE Small When I say a whole bunch of years, I do need enough time for government to look at an issue and intervene. But in 1978, 3.1% of all med students in America were black men. That number has gone down In 2019, only 2.9% of all med students they should wide were blackmail. So we're experiencing not just a more difficult academic journey, not in terms of academic and intellectual rigor, but in terms of all the other things you have to account for, to, which can see test materials and more students than they ever been. Admissions coaching is largely unacceptable for a lot of folks around the nation, but then also this underrepresentation, this gap is widening, And so that's why leaders of brain re-exist right is to fill that gap, to prepare students who are under-resourced and underrepresented with all the things that will need to be strong postgraduate candidates and ideally prepared to be the next diverse leaders of our nation. 0:20:36 - Felicia Jadczak It's so important because I was thinking, as you were sharing, jake, i literally just last night went to a networking event in my community, which is I'm not in Western Massachusetts, and it's a couple different chambers of commerce in the area that sort of gathered together and did this massive event with tons of people at it, mostly business owners and small business people and folks who are kind of in the local community, and it was mostly white people. And I went with my husband, who was white, and we both were kind of overwhelmed And he usually doesn't like going to these things anyway, but I love going to networking events And I felt a sense of like ooh, this is a lot for me, which is not a feeling that comes up a lot, as Rachel can probably tell you. And it wasn't until the end where I ended up chatting with two other women of color where I felt comfortable And what was so interesting to me and it's something I've been thinking about a lot even today one of the women actually, as we were just sort of introducing and chatting, and she was like, yeah, we've got to stick together because there's a lot of white people here And I want to see more of us here, and it just felt so affirming to. It felt like a cyberleaf almost, and it was just something I've really been noodling on, because obviously we're in the space at SGI, we do all this DEI work, we're in these spaces all the time, but maybe it was this shift from working unquote to being in a more social environment. But that representation piece is still just so critical and so key And for students who maybe don't have that support they don't have their partners saying like, oh, let's go talk to people, or they don't have any family resources or things like that I can see that just being such a huge hurdle And that's why I think it's so important. However, it comes up where there's this ability to not only acknowledge that this is challenging but then give the resources to help support people, because it can be a lot to deal with even on a day-to-day basis, right. 0:22:32 - JAKE Small Yeah, so let's just have to get your tips and tricks. My partner also hates attending networking nights and I love them. 0:22:39 - Felicia Jadczak I know I don't have that many tips because, honestly, what I told him, jake, is I was like you don't have to come with me to this, and he decided to come on his own, so I'll have to ask him what needed to be done. 0:22:49 - Rachel Murray He can't live without you. Honestly, there's a lot of codependency. 0:22:53 - Felicia Jadczak We've been 24-7 together. I wouldn't even get it. 0:22:57 - JAKE Small Well, this would be a nice checkpoint If my partner's listening to the podcast send me a text with my favorite call Let me know if you want me to connect you with my lovely introverted partner. 0:23:07 - Felicia Jadczak Happy to have you. They would both probably hate that. 0:23:11 - JAKE Small What I think is so interesting, felicia, is that representation matters. We hear that phrase all the time, but it doesn't just matter. It can be life-saving for people. It can truly be life-saving for people. My previous employer was an institution of higher education. There were a number of faculty and a number of staff, but there were 65 staff who worked as a part of the administrative team And I was the only black man out of 65 people, the only black man. That was challenging. Every single day was challenging. I might now work at an organization that is black-owned, it's queer-owned. Our team of five people were all folks of color And the amount of healing that I felt in my last I just celebrated 100 days at Leadership Brainerie But the amount of thank you, thank you, the amount of healing I felt in the last 100 days have been so restorative. So I'll be a focus on my career as a professional. It's allowed me to focus on the impact I'm gonna have in society and the industry of higher education When I don't have to think about being the only or being among the few or being the first. It's amazing the ways in which I'm able to open my mind, open my heart and just be vulnerable. I used to be so scared to fail, because it wasn't just Jake failing, it was black men failing in this company or in this industry. But when I had to wear the narrative for an entire community or cultural group, it was challenging. I get to be so much more of who I am. I get to be an artist, i get to be an uncle, i get to be someone who loves to play the ukulele because I'm not the only one And that life-saving piece. I think it's something that folks don't realize. And that's just one identity, right, and of course those stories can be told across other identities as well. 0:24:52 - Felicia Jadczak So deep. Thank you for sharing that. Go ahead, rachel. That's awkward. That's how we roll here. We're awkward. 0:25:00 - Rachel Murray Well, at least one moment there has to be embrace. You're awkward. Well, as the resident white lady on the podcast, we'll say, first of all, really thank you for sharing that And also, just from the higher ed perspective, being the only, it's such a disservice to literally everybody in the space, right, cause then that's just an echo chamber with all the same identities. You're not growing or learning, And that's the whole point of higher education. It's the whole point of education period, right? And so if you're just there with the same people with the same identities and similar life experiences, then how are you really learning and growing? So it's a disservice to everybody in this space as well. So I'm really glad that you found a home where you're at right now. It means a lot. I can see your happy energy. I wanted to follow up with a question that's sort of related, which is would love to hear what you think higher ed can do I mean, it's such a huge, huge space to really help support an environment that is truly inclusive and where people can have a sense of belonging in space. 0:26:00 - JAKE Small Right, yeah, So back to that money where your mouth is Pete, right. It's important to ask the right question, to not be afraid to get data findings and data insight that uncovers some of the ways in which you fail the student. Right of them. Speaking directly to a senior leader at an institution of higher education. It's important to learn these things, figure out where your gaps are so you can fill them, And this will be both big and small things. I got the chance to be the vice chair for a faculty staff community network, a previous institution. It was like an ERG or business resource group, but it was specifically for the queer faculty and staff. It was a great example of putting your money where your mouth was right, Because this wasn't just a community network, to say that you have community networks, but they give us a budget And we use that budget to enact change, to have social gatherings and also to come together and articulate ideas to senior leadership about what we can do Today, tomorrow, next year, five years from now, to affect change. And so, when Boston University opened its first ever queer resource center for students, it was so exciting for me to be able to say, hey, I've been able to be a faculty advisor, a staff advisor, to a group of students And let me be clear, it was students over the course of several years who made this thing happen. I was students advocating for themselves, but I got to help set a light, a spotlight on those students and see the fruition of all their hard work. That is a mandatory change. That's important. That's big, But also there's things that are small. As an incentive consultant, I've got to work with probably three or four dozen institutions of higher education across the country. There was one school that had a very small problem. It didn't take much to fix it, but they perpetuated this problem for probably three or four decades. And the problem was this When a student was applied to the institution, they couldn't select where they were housed directly after they got admitted to the school, They had to pay a $100 housing fee on top of their seat deposit. So you pay $1,000 seat deposit and you pay $100 housing deposit So you could pick where you're going to be dorming for the first year of undergrad. And that $100 didn't seem like a barrier to a multimillion or multi-billion dollar school, But it was a huge barrier because so many financial aid packages private and public scholarships didn't cover the housing deposit. Students had to come up with that $100 by themselves. So a lot of students from low income backgrounds, a lot of students of color, a lot of sorts in racing college who didn't know how to navigate higher education, ended up getting the housing that was 40 or 50 years old, And all the students who were able to come up with that $100, right on the spot, got the newest and best housing that was built five or six years ago. And so what you saw were a bunch of white kids from wealthy families in the newest building, the bunch of students of color in the old shabby buildings. You have to get this stuff out. You got to ask some questions And then you have to say, hey, you know what? We actually don't need that housing deposit. It's not a huge revenue generating stream of income for our campus And, like I'm just creating more harm than good. There's big things, There's small things. Figure them out or hire someone to come and figure them out for you. I mean, if you're looking for names, hit me up. It probably won't be me. I'm 100 days into a new job and I'm loving it, But I do have a network of consultants who are committed to this educational equity work and finding their issues and helping you to solve them. 0:29:26 - Felicia Jadczak Well, i'm glad to hear that you're like not me, but I know people, because if you're folks at leadership, we're going to be listening to this. I'll be like what Right? 0:29:34 - JAKE Small No, i'm both not busy. I'm both not busy. I'm not patient. Needs lots and lots of people doing this work And I'm happy to connect with them soon, yeah. 0:29:45 - Felicia Jadczak Well, and it's so interesting because, as you've been sharing, i've been thinking a lot about my sister because she's also in this space. She is an educator. She taught God bless, her middle school for a number of years, mostly Spanish, and then DEI worked within the school system for charter schools in the Boston area And she's in her second year, i want to say. Now She's the head of DEI at a local higher ed institution, and one of the things that she's been working on, which I was really surprised to hear at first, was she's really heavily involved with access to food, because food is a big issue for some of their students who are from marginalized communities or who are immigrants or not immigrants, but people from outside the US who don't have the same resources or financial access, and so they have been standing up a food bank over the last year And I was like, how is that part of your job? And then she explained it to me more. But it all ties back to that equity piece, right, because there are a lot of students who are totally fine and they live in the back bay and they are all good to go, and then there are students who literally don't know what their next meal is going to look like, and even in her office space she literally has baskets full of snacks for students And of course everyone loves a free snack, but it's also partially for students who might feel uncomfortable even going to that food bank. So I was just thinking a lot about that equity piece of it with what you were sharing, because I think there's just so many barriers that if we're not thinking about it we might not have any clue. And I know Rachel and I are both surprised to hear that those folks in the higher ed institution didn't realize that that $100 fee would be a problem. That seems so obvious to me, right? But I think there's still a lot of hurdles around, not just awareness, of course, but understanding these deeper issues that may not manifest in some of those same ways. 0:31:41 - JAKE Small Yeah, yeah, certainly. You know, when I was in undergrad, i thought, oh, one day I want to be a director of the AI. I want to be a chief diversity inclusion officer because I love this work and that's, like You know, the top dog in this work. Right, that's the person who's making all the decisions and helping to create a better, more How do the world for people who deserve and need support. But I learned more about sort of that role and how many companies. It is not a well-funded, it is not a role as much agency authority or power that you would think a chief or a director would have. Sometimes not only, but sometimes the roles for show, and so I have positioned myself as being chief diversity inclusion officers Either best friend or worst nightmare. If there's someone who's in the role because they're checking the bot, i'm going to highlight to them the ways in which they need to improve and actually create some rippling impact and Lean into the master practices or their best friend right, it's been so cool to be a career educator as focused on Equitable outcomes for students, as focused on creating mostly just and socially responsible Politicians and practice, and as chief diversity inclusion officers right, because we need people who are committed to this work in every single department of a company, every single corner of a community. So we go rally together and support based on what we have control over, what our scope of control is. And so, as you're speaking, that is the important a partnership. I Was a student who was food insecure both in undergrad and graduate school. I have a lot of shame. I'll be fine for Vermont's version of food stamps or food support until a friend of mine says You're the person who this is for also recognized that Vermont 70% of the money that's allocated each year or food support goes unused Because of largely spame people realizing or thinking to themselves I'm a grad student, i'm a grad student, i'm at the flagship institution, those funds are for someone else, someone who looks different from me, who was from a different place from where I'm from, but not recognizing that no, that sort of government assistance or support is important, but also thinking about partnerships, thinking about a really amazing organization at the college, a little called swipe up hunger, which realizes that student hunger is a fallible issue and they are doing incredible work to ensure that, basically, folks are fed right Students, young people who should commit their time and energy to learning and engage you in the most academically rigorous part of their life, actually have to think about where their next meal is coming from, and Especially, especially in this country that we quote unquote call Developed or, quote unquote, first world. These are all for phrases and we can talk about that another time. But in a country where we proud ourselves on being the best and the biggest and all these other things, we need to Care for our most vulnerable Way better, way, way, way better, and to do that, i think we need to rely on partnership. 0:34:40 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, i have a follow-up question and I'll just be very transparent with you and our listeners. It's a little bit off book, so I didn't send this over to you in advance. So if we need to adjust, we can definitely do that. But one of the things that has been coming to mind, as you've just been talking, is Going back to just higher ed institutions in general. One of the problems, beyond just representation and access and getting people Comfortable and secure and getting equal access and equitable access to all the things, is that a lot of these institutions, as you touched on a little bit, are inherently toxic or have a lot of Baggage that they are carrying with them over hundreds and hundreds of years and a lot of folks don't make it through because they Drop out. Or even if they're, let's say, like their tenured professors or they're actually staying within that institutional structure, it's a really, really negative environment, and so I'm curious, because I personally follow a lot of folks on the social medias And there's one account on Instagram in particular that I really enjoy following. It's called diversity in academia and they kind of call out a lot of these issues where, like, one of the latest posts was literally about how there is a White scholar, in whatever field this is who is married to a person of color, and this woman Took the other person's last name and has been going after grant funding that are reserved for folks who, in this case, are Latinx or POC, and how it's like this big issue, because they're basically taking advantage of programs that are, i think, designed to try and Bring down some of these barriers and create more equity, yet turning it on its head. So I'm just curious, like that's obviously a very specific example, but I'm curious what your thoughts are around, not just the kind of like pipeline for students black and brown students getting into higher ed And then into jobs or careers or whatever it might be after that, but what are your thoughts around how we can fix the institutions themselves, because that's something that Rachel and I think a lot about with our work, because we don't just want to get people into jobs with companies, because if they are going into toxic environments, then that sort of defeats the whole point. So how can we fix the root issues? So, anyway, i just said a lot, so, yeah, what your thoughts are on all that. 0:37:03 - JAKE Small Yeah, well, listen, hey, we might need to have a part two. I think that you bring up this really interesting idea, which is like do we fix this broken system? Some might say that it's not broken, that all these systems that are operating Or in place of injustice were designed to do so and they're supporting the exact people that they were always designed to support. But do we fix this broken system or do we burn it to the ground? Right? Do we lean into abolitionism and do we just start from something fresh and new? I think that It's hard, right, it's hard to figure out what the best Off the way in towards justice is higher educational work saving. I'll leave that to someone else to answer. But right now, what we know is that Folks are able to earn way more money and way more financial stability. Out there, just money, but financial stability. People are able to create generational wealth with a greater likelihood If they have an undergraduate degree, and even more so if they have a graduate degree, a master's or doctoral degree or personal certificate of some story within this in parentheses broken system. We have to make sure that folks who need these resources are giving them, while we're also making it more habitable. I think it's impossible to say that we're doing good job and justice work unless we are both Funding more students into this space move never historically add comfortable access to it and also Encouraging and inspiring those spaces to be more happenable for them. Right, and so you know, with leaders of Brainerie We have a number of different partners, schools and these are schools that have demonstrated us a commitment to equity work, not just diversifying their graduate school classrooms, but also equity work, and we don't take on all of the campus partners in the world. We're very intentional. Right, we are helping support recruitment efforts of top-tier institutions to get more highly qualified Black and brown students, low income students of color students from our first generation Into these spaces that we don't want to send them into traumatic spaces. Right, we want to make sure that they have a whole bunch of people there with open arms to receive them and to love them and to give them the Care and support they need. Right, and so we both need to do this work of making the space more habitable and also Preparing young people for the reality that currently exists, which is a place of tension that I often times have. But I think that Justice work takes time and time, and while it would be really awesome to start fresh and build something that, just for me and support, can serve people who are just like me, today, i don't have the mean, i don't have the Social capital, the fiscal capital to do so. So does rely on not just partners, but allies, conspirators, if you will, folks who are willing to give up something, that equity definition I mentioned before, redistribute of wealth or resources or power, and be uncomfortable as that's before, folks with criminal identities or folks who have historically been the oppressor. None of this is easy. It gives me excited. That's who that self-selected into this work. I think more folks need excited about visioning towards a more habitable landscape And what I should know, if I mean when it comes to your academics or your professional future, or even just securing your next meal or housing or health care. Right, we need a more habitable landscape holistically for people who have been historically forgotten or pushed down, minoritized or minimized. 0:40:30 - Rachel Murray You need a lot more people like you, jake, and also it's really impressive all of the work that you're doing with Five people in a nonprofit. 0:40:38 - JAKE Small Thank you, and let me call them out name by name. Yes, founder and executive director Derek Young jr, who has been leading this organization this year, is our fifth birthday in month, in the May. Congratulations, fumbling my words, but in this month, in the month of May, make 31st, we'll reach our fifth birthday, led under Derek's leadership and our other co-founder, director of development, jonathan Allen, and right now I'm the director of strategic alliances, jake small, and we have talent Coop stuff to be along the market. There's four of us. We have a number of folks who are joining the team soon And you know we're working to build a movement, not just get folks in the graduate school, not just diversify the partner schools that we work with, but we're creating a movement. We hope that folks for listening realize the importance Of this work and find a way to fit themselves in. But you know, thank you, we're a small team and care so deeply about this work And I know that you all feel in my passion through the mic. 0:41:36 - Rachel Murray We get it, we absolutely get it, and it's related to what we do too. It's like when we started out, we're really supporting folks with marginalized identities in the workplace And now we realize well, realize for quite some time now is also Making sure that the other folks who are in positions of power Can also be open to creating that space For folks that don't look like them in that environment. So, yes, feel like a lot of alignment, like we're in the workplace, you're in higher ed, totally get it and just love it. It's great. And I agree We probably have a whole other, whole other conversation, but I we've got a few more questions for you. Okay, so we talked a lot about leadership. Rainery want to know for you, would you and you've already shared it like a little bit but if you want to Sort of hone in on a professional challenge that you've had and how you've overcome it, would love to hear it. 0:42:30 - JAKE Small Yeah for sure. So I think, to the industry of higher education and how it has largely been, from my perspective, unchanging right. And so, for example, it can be hard to do things that feel so simple, right, so easy, but there's a ton of red tape. We've all heard about it or we've seen it ourselves. There's just a ton of red tape where we have to create a task force and then put that in front of a committee and then have A year long or two year long survey and then bring that to the board, trustees and every other way. Part of that because their incentives set up in place within higher education For things to move slowly, right, their incentives. There are very few incentives for progression or liberation, for emancipatory practices. That's always been a little bit frustrating for me. I overcame it by starting my own independent consultancy, by working with folks one-on-one or in small groups, by leading Facilitated workshops for clients both in higher education, outside of higher education, to ensure that things that I can change today Are changed today, not allowing my industry to be my obstacle or my barrier, but instead allowing it to give me perspective, informs and influences the ways that I Reach out and help the things that I can help right now. 0:43:44 - Felicia Jadczak Well, why don't we switch gears a little bit? Because I feel like we had some other questions that we're going to get into, but we kind of talked about them already. So we do like to talk a bit about some fun questions, And these are stuff that we love to get into with our guests when we have time, and I think we have enough time. So I'm going to start off with our favorite all-time question, which of course, relates to who we are at our very core, which is what do you geek out about Now before you answer? the caveat is it cannot be related to work And hopefully not something that you've mentioned already unless it's like truly your heart's burning passion and you have no other answer. But yes what do you geek out about? 0:44:25 - JAKE Small I've been fortunate enough to geek out about a lot of things that I've turned into work, but I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love art, creating it, engaging with it, seeing it, just being around it visual art, forming art, music, dance It just excites me. I got this opportunity to showcase some of my art while I was living in Vermont. Really special to be a black creator, a black artist, in such a white space, just to have parts of my culture with people in the state of Vermont, which was really, really special. So I geek out about art all the time. My partner and I just moved into a new apartment and I got to be in charge of the art in our bedroom, dining room, kitchen. You're probably thinking well, what does that leave my partner? He got to decide the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom. 0:45:13 - Felicia Jadczak I was like is there a living room situation happening? 0:45:16 - JAKE Small I also did the living room. 0:45:18 - Felicia Jadczak Of course I was thinking. I was like this is definitely. This conversation is coming from a place of a lot of negotiation right now. 0:45:26 - JAKE Small And it was nice, it was great. I think it was gorgeous. I have a gallery wall. We're sorry. We have a gallery wall And I geek out about every day at home. 0:45:37 - Rachel Murray What are some favorite artists that you have hanging up? 0:45:41 - JAKE Small So I have some original pieces which are ones that I've created myself, And I do a lot of drifting and sourcing of antiques or just vintage-ish pieces, many of which I got in New York City and from New York City, And so there's some awesome, awesome, awesome thrift stores and antique shops that I've collected over the year, love it all And I know Felicia is also. 0:46:03 - Rachel Murray I don't really consider myself an artsy crafty kind of person, but Felicia absolutely is. 0:46:08 - Felicia Jadczak It's one of those things where I need to create more time for it and space my life for it. But it is very important And a little shout out for my neighborhood. I am on the city arts committee for my town So that's been really joyful just to get that be part of my life So I get to amplify and just highlight a lot of really cool artists in this area. Love all that. 0:46:32 - Rachel Murray That is so amazing, and I will just add also, this is my experience with art and Felicia gets to get out of this. So I went on like I'm going to go and take art classes, and so I got paint and I did the thing And I got the canvas and everything. I got a whole little setup. I'm looking at it right now. And then what happened was I'm not really going to clean up my brushes, so all my brushes got hardened, so I stopped painting. 0:46:55 - JAKE Small No. 0:46:57 - Rachel Murray I was like do I just buy new brushes? 0:47:00 - JAKE Small I can't believe that's what stopped your artistic flow. It's a little rent at the end of a painting session. 0:47:08 - Rachel Murray It's sad. Maybe I need to do drawings or something. 0:47:12 - Felicia Jadczak Well, maybe it's not the right medium for you. Yeah, yeah. 0:47:15 - Rachel Murray I like the acrylic though. It was nice, it was soothing. I just like to go back and forth and just paint sunsets, like a person like me would do. So next question So who or what inspires you? 0:47:32 - JAKE Small I feel like I answer this question differently every time I'm asked it. Today I'll name the who that inspires me is a woman named Dysinia Webb, who was long since passed away, but she, at the end of the 1800s, a black woman from Alabama, was the first in her family to get an undergraduate degree. And then she went one step further and she was the first in her family to get a graduate of a degree. She had 12 kids, and four of them got doctors as well, the youngest of which was Dr J Arnold Webb. He then had five kids, and the youngest of which got her degree in family nurse. She was a family nurse practitioner. I should know this because that woman is my mother, and so my great-grandmother was Dysinia Webb, and she inspires me. I've been doing as much as I can to dig back into her story and learn about her journey and also just honor the ways in which she sacrificed for our family And everybody has to meet her, of course, but she has seen the way that my family has operated, just from being courageous, being driven and saying yes when everyone around her said no. 0:48:36 - Rachel Murray Love that. 0:48:37 - Felicia Jadczak I love that because it also just speaks to such a beautiful thread of how this focus on education has been running through your family for generations at this point, so I think that's so cool. 0:48:49 - JAKE Small Right And listen. at the beginning of the 1900s it was impressive if a black woman from the South could read kind of OK, let alone get a master's degree and start to school. She was likely I got to fact check this, but likely one of the first black women in this country to have academic credentials. that she did, which is exciting. 0:49:16 - Rachel Murray So I'm curious does she have a Wikipedia page? I don't think so, Because we think that happened. Well, it sounds like she should Send us her information. 0:49:25 - JAKE Small Yeah, I got to do a little digging And if you'd like to support this information finding, I'm recruiting a team. 0:49:31 - Rachel Murray Yeah, because this is just it. These folks are not seen or hurt, so thank you for rising it up Yeah. 0:49:39 - Felicia Jadczak What are your core values, Jake? 0:49:42 - JAKE Small Honesty important to me. Leadership is deeply important to me. Not that every single person should be what we traditionally think of as a leader, but every person should be a leader, and for me that means willing to act courageously towards some sort of common good, even if that means that you're sacrificing your public image or some money or some airtime or whatnot. But leadership is very important to me And I think that everyone has the capacity for leadership, while not everyone will be the director of a company or CEO or something else like that more traditional quote, unquote person. Leadership And I guess what I'll say is creativity is a core value, a core passion of mine. I need to be creative in every aspect of my life, both in art, like we talked about before, but also in my day to day. I use a lot of emojis in my emails. If you haven't seen those yet, i'm sure you'll see them soon. 0:50:37 - Rachel Murray Same, same. I use them aggressively as much as humanly possible, and I'm really glad that you explained the definition of leadership, because we certainly talk about that a lot here at SGO, so it is an important distinction. So thank you for defining it. What's your favorite way to practice self-care? 0:50:56 - JAKE Small So I used to be an extrovert And a lot of people in my life tell me oh, you can't change from being an extrovert to being an extrovert. You know, i have a lot of career educator friends who do MBTI assessments and sprint squats, gallups and like, oh, these things are steadfast and steady and they don't change. But I was an extrovert And I knew that because at the end of a long day I would want to go out and party and hang out with a bunch of people And I got energy from being around people. But now I'm an extrovert, the only person, the only person I can stand to be around after one day as my partner. And so my best and most frequently used practice of self-care is laying down in a dim, cool room and doing absolutely nothing, just being horizontal. That is my self-care. 0:51:43 - Felicia Jadczak I mean not going to lie, that sounds delightful, like yes, and I'm curious just to double click on that. Do you feel like that shift happened gradually Or do you think that it had anything to do with COVID? Because I know for me Rachel knows like I'm super extroverted but I've become a lot more introverted over the last couple of years just because I went dramatically from being out and about in the world to being at home for the whole day. So that definitely had somewhat of an impact. So I'm curious if you notice any reasoning for that shift or if it's just something that happened naturally. 0:52:20 - JAKE Small That's really cool. That makes a lot of sense. I also like that you used the phrase double click on that. That's what you said, right. 0:52:26 - Felicia Jadczak It is. It's a facility in your term. Feel free to use that one. 0:52:30 - JAKE Small Yeah, well, thank you. Thank you, I'll definitely. I'll say that. 0:52:33 - Felicia Jadczak Yes, please make sure every time and all times you use it. It's not mine, i can't claim the origins of it, but anyway, yes, please feel free to continue to double click. 0:52:46 - JAKE Small Yeah, i think that my shift was between undergrad and grad school, which is before the pandemic, and I think that I had some major life experiences that may have influenced it. But I also think that in a lot of years of undergrad I knew at least I thought that you had to be an extrovert, you had to be very people-oriented and very loud and good at speaking to advance in your career, especially in higher education, especially in orientation, at MISM, career education, the functional areas. That was most incident. And then I learned like, oh no, i could be a different type of leader, one that is really concerned with building strong policies and acting really equitable principles and leveraging data in interesting ways and not necessarily speaking in front of 1,000 people every other week. 0:53:35 - Rachel Murray I love that. I think we have time for one more question, So I'm going to ask what is your favorite podcast other than the one that you're currently on? of course, I love it Also. 0:53:50 - JAKE Small Wow, i'm pinching myself moment of. I want a podcast. Yay, i really enjoy political commentary, and so Crooked Media is a media agency, a media network. Looks like both the ultra-media with Crooked Media. They do. 0:54:06 - Felicia Jadczak Oh yes, All the pods, Pods Saved, Disks and Pods Saved. 0:54:10 - JAKE Small That Have you listened to Pods, saved the UK. It's the new one. 0:54:14 - Rachel Murray Not yet. 0:54:15 - JAKE Small Yeah Well, rachel, enjoy. Let me know what you think. I'm a huge fan of Love It or Leave It. John, love It Same. It does incredible work. It's very funny And 1 a Day is a great daily podcast. Catch me up on the news. 15 or 20 minutes long, it's like I'm looking good on my way into work. 0:54:31 - Rachel Murray Love that answer. Beautiful, concise, agree, I think. Love It. He's so smart. He's so smart. 0:54:40 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah. 0:54:40 - Rachel Murray I love them all, but he's the smartest. Well, thank you so much. This was great. Really appreciate your time. 0:54:48 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, we're so thankful to have this conversation And if folks who are listening want to learn more, where can they find you? if they want to learn or connect Jake? 0:54:56 - JAKE Small Yeah for sure. Well, i am increasingly more and more active on LinkedIn, and so feel free to find me on LinkedIn. My first name is Jake JAKE I spell my name with all capital letters, and my last name is Small, and you can find me because I'll be Jake Small with the Queer Flag afterwards. And outside of that, you can also find my personal website, wwwfimebakesmallcom. 0:55:18 - Felicia Jadczak Awesome, and is there anything that you want to plug that you have coming up or any exciting things on the Leadership Brainery front? 0:55:24 - JAKE Small Yeah, Nothing in particular that I personally want to plug, Just to miss, and then work with Leadership Brainery. I hope that folks will click out of this podcast, leave a strong review on whatever listening platform you're using, and then go directly to LeadershipBraineryorg and learn more about some of the things that I mentioned, because this work is so urgent, it's so needed. We have a widening gap when it comes to professional outcomes and career outcomes for folks of color, for low-income folks, for first-person or some college goers. And do you have an entryway? There is a point of entry for you today, So hopefully you'll find it. Hope you'll reach out to me to learn more And let's get connected. Keep the conversation going. 0:56:02 - Felicia Jadczak Awesome. Thank you so much, jake. Once again, thanks, jake. 0:56:05 - JAKE Small Thank you both. It's been a pleasure. Bye-bye. 0:56:08 - Rachel Murray Bye. 0:56:09 - Felicia Jadczak All right. Well, hopefully you enjoyed that conversation as much as we enjoyed having it. So thanks again, Jake. 0:56:15 - Rachel Murray Yes, thank you so much, and if you're still listening, we have some updates. 0:56:20 - Felicia Jadczak Stuff As always Yeah, so I'm happy to kick off. So, if you are listening to this in a timely fashion, which is June 2023, we have an upcoming webinar on combating anti-Asian sentiments on the 28th of June, presented by yours truly, so please feel free to come along and check that out. It is free, just have to sign up on our website And then in July. 0:56:43 - Rachel Murray Speaking of free, we also have a virtual workshop on July 12th communicating your values and qualifications through a job search Highly recommended, especially in this wild market that we're living in. It's completely free. It's going to be run by Jen Walker Wall. She's a wonderful friend of SGO. She's an incredible, brilliant person. So I think you'll have a great time. And then we have our next in-person. If you are in Boston, our next in-person geek out is going to be hosted by CarGurus on July 18th. So, yes, grab your ticket. There will be geeky raffle prizes, there will be wonderful humans, there will be food and Bev. I think a great time will be had by all. So it'll be really fun. And we have a bunch more other events too. So if you're looking to find out what we're up to, you can always visit us at ShiggySouthcom, or you can visit us on LinkedIn and you can visit us on the Instagrams. We are in those places. 0:57:42 - Felicia Jadczak And only those places, and not Twitter anymore. 0:57:48 - Rachel Murray Thanks, Elon. This is why we can't have nice things. 0:57:51 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, pretty much, but we also have some other exciting news which I can't believe you didn't mention at all, rachel, because this is kind of like your baby, speaking of babies, as we talked about in our intro. 0:58:01 - Rachel Murray We do. We have a job board and we're so excited about it We're adding jobs to it. So if you are looking, this is a great place to just, you know, see what's out there. They're my friends of SGO, So, and if you are someone who's looking to put your jobs onto our job board, we make it really easy for you. So please feel free to sign up. We look forward to spreading the good job. Love Yes indeed. 0:58:29 - Felicia Jadczak Well, if you're still listening. thank you so much. We really appreciate it. Please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. It really makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and, by extension, our work. 0:58:40 - Rachel Murray Make sure to tune in for our next episode in two weeks, just two weeks It goes by so fast And if you're looking to further your own knowledge and gain support alongside other incredible humans, please join our free community. You'll get a welcoming, built-in support system grounded in the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. You'll have access to bonus episodes, additional resources, courses, webinars, coaching and so much more and us really And us. 0:59:04 - Felicia Jadczak I mean, why not? Why not? I don't want to hang out with us. 0:59:07 - Rachel Murray So check it out. We're at risetogetherchikeeksoutcom, or you can visit us at shekeeksoutcom and click on the rise together link for more information. So thank you all so much for listening. Bye, bye. Transcribed by