Professor Jamesena Talbott leads inclusion and diversity efforts
Jamesena Talbott, D.M., is the new inclusion coordinator for the Office of Academic and Student Affairs at Point Park and an associate professor in the Department of Global Management Organization in the School of Business, where she has taught since 2001. Jamie Talbott's background is steeped in organizational development. She has more than 20 years of experience working in administrative and leadership roles. She received a doctor of management in organizational leadership from the University of Phoenix; a master of arts in counseling psychology from Waynesburg University; and a master of arts in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. She recently talked with The Point about inclusion and how it can make a meaningful difference in the lives of students and the campus community.
What exactly is an inclusion coordinator?
JT: My job is to talk to the campus community about diversity, understand and define what inclusion is, how an inclusive environment feels, and identify what programs and services they would like to see on campus.
My other hat is to work with students and groups about how to cultivate diversity and inclusion in their programs and practices. This will include speaking with incoming students who are in culture shock as they adjust to a campus life that is different from their own background. For these students, they are learning where they fit in, how to navigate the system, and how to handle this diverse multicultural world that they will live in for the rest of their lives. Today, social media and technology provide more access to ideas, openness, and a bias that is formed in an instant. Students also are learning to work on a campus that has three or four generations of people with different views and opinions. I will help to guide them in how to bring all of this together so they don't just jump to conclusions, but find an answer and also think and build relationships.
I will also meet with faculty to create opportunities that helps meet their needs in hiring with a focus on recruitment and retention.
What kind of progress have you made in your first year in this position?
JT: The first year has been all about collaboration. I have been meeting with student groups and getting information on how they feel about campus life and developing a process so people better understand what is available to them campus wide. I have also begun to work with various groups that don't know or don't take advantage of the programs on campus, such as evening and weekend students. We are trying to figure out how we can replicate programs and offer them at different times to meet this group's needs.
Why is inclusion so important for students?
JT: Students need to be a part of something meaningful - something that helps them find a place where they fit in, know they have a voice that can be heard, and where they can make a difference. Students want to build what others have missed. Helping first time students learn to navigate better will eventually carry into their work world as they navigate into the unknown and begin to feel more comfortable on the job.
I also see it as helping students adjust to life - its lifelong learning, knowing how you fit in, and what kind of person you want to be in life. This leads to a question of how do I pay it forward to touch others? And how can I affect the environment where I am working to help someone new walking in the door figure it all out.
What is your overriding goal for inclusion at Point Park?
JT: My goal is to create an environment where students don't just come to class and leave. We are an urban community, so we need to determine what are the expectations and needs of all of our students. If we can get different answers that represent the full spectrum of ideas of what a university is today, then we can implement programs that meet the wants and needs of the students.
How does your background in organizational development play into your current role?
JT: I have always been in a role where I have initiated leadership training that focuses on how to put teams together to work on programs. Team building, cross-cultural communication, and developing curriculum have been in my background. In the Global Management and Organization classes I teach, I work with students on building teams and developing skills to recognize their strengths as well as the strengths of those who are different. Through learning what to do as a team, the students can begin to discern how they can apply what they have learned in the classroom to real life. My teaching experience in developing students' talents, skills and career building is now being put into practice to help the institution accomplish its goals.
What are your goals related to recruitment and retention at Point Park?
JT: I want to make sure that students want to be here, want to stay here, and that they are comfortable with their place at the University. But ultimately, I want current and future students to find meaningfulness and purpose in their lives.
I also want to develop programming that will bring middle and high school kids to campus to show them what an urban campus looks like and help them prepare for their careers. Our Urban Accounting Initiative with Manchester Academy allows us to build middle school relationships so we can meet student needs sooner rather than later as we help students prepare for careers, learn what it means to go to college, and engage with the faculty. The focus of this program is on minorities going into accounting, so we develop activities to engage these students. My role is to connect the students with faculty and programs within the college campus experience.
What is your personal philosophy of life and work?
JT: Anyone who has been around me knows I am the soft side of the equation. I always ask how are people finding meaningfulness? Everyone deserves happiness. But meaningfulness is different. I don't want students to just a get a degree, I want them to get a real education.
Interview by Camille Downing
Photo by Martha Rial
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University