Director of Diversity Services Tiffany Byers shares her perspective on the importance of learning about the journey when dealing with diversity.
About 15 years ago, I began a journey of researching my family history. I lost my grandmother and father in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and the loss renewed a strong desire to learn about my family. Ancestry search engines offered the opportunity to research the many stories I had heard as a child, but I did not know where to begin. Someone suggested beginning with the United States census. I was surprised and shocked to find I could only trace my lineage to 1870. For anything before then, I had to look to a slave schedule. I was deeply saddened because these records confirmed that my ancestors were considered property, not people. However, after years of persistence and detective work, I now have binders of research to share with my family.
Reflecting on my journey to find more of myself, I reminisced on my years at Harding and how I have witnessed growth in the approach to diversity and improvement in race relations. I witnessed African American alumni and current staff, faculty and students share personal experiences on campus and how they see the future for our University. I watched in awe as the University honored many of our African American firsts during Homecoming 2021. I heard the joy and watched the tears of the honorees’ families as they expressed such gratitude for Harding remembering and committing to never forget the pathfinders who made a Christian education open to all.
I also have had the honor of embracing my fellow co-workers as they struggle to understand and yearn to support faculty, staff and students of color. It has been with joy that I have worked with faculty who saw a need to incorporate diversity in their orientations for incoming students. As Harding continues to gain momentum in the quest to form a more equitable culture, I am encouraged to work daily to make this a reality.
We all have a journey to learn more about ourselves through our family histories. I love that the University is committed to creating a culture where we acknowledge and honor the successes and failures of our past in an effort to redefine our future, and I am confident that one day soon we will have binders of stories to share with our Harding family.