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AIDE: What Is Your Why?

Written by: Kory M. Saunders (she/her/hers)

Edited by: Adriana Smith Regional Director, University Relations at AIFS Abroad & Emily Merson Executive Director at AIFS Abroad

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

When it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, asking this seemingly simple question can be the most powerful tool in opening discussions to create a culture of belonging and advance the mission of inclusive excellence. As I have explored my “why” as the Director of Inclusion initiatives, I am also encouraging my colleagues at AIFS Abroad, and colleagues at our partner universities to explore their why. To find success we must view Access, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (AIDE) not as a one-off task, project, discussion, or program; but rather an intentional, integral, ongoing practice and journey. It's essential that we all continually ask ourselves this question as we strive to continually progress on this journey.

The "why" to practicing AIDE can be both personal and collective. Understanding this "why" is essential to our diligence, perseverance, and willingness to learn and unlearn along the journey. The "why" of AIDE often challenges us to rethink what we have been taught and question our beliefs, pushing us to look beyond ourselves and those who share our identities.

Our "why" can be both simple and complex - challenging yet engaging, annoying yet intriguing. The "why" often brings up more questions which help us to reflect on our thoughts and beliefs, uncovering the motivations behind our actions. This process can be uncomfortable, yet vital for growth. For some comfort, I have this phrase, “I can’t care more about your comfort than I care about your growth. Your growth will produce a new level of comfort.” Comfort is relative. Discomfort can often indicate an opportunity for growth and represent a crossroads - where one can choose to remain at the same level, or venture deeper into the journey of growth.

Exploring AIDE often challenges our sense of comfort in ways we'd often rather avoid, even if it's necessary. Through this process, we may come face to face with truths - sometimes about ourselves - that are hard to confront. That's normal - it is a crucial part to examine as we grow in our individual and collective AIDE journeys. This often creates the space to cultivate deeper, more profound wins. By using our "whys" to align our actions, we open up access, inclusion, diversity and equity - bringing us one step closer to a more inclusive organization, industry and world we live in.

As we continually ask ourselves “why”, we must continue to increase our knowledge, strive to make progress in our individual and collective AIDE practices, and create the conditions for a true inclusive culture of belonging.

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