Advocating for Diversity – Ep.22

Journey to Unconscious Competence – Ep.21
March 11, 2021
Amplifying the Zambian Voice – Ep.23
April 2, 2021

Associate Professor and Director of Faculty Diversity and Retention at Old Dominion University, Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key joins the podcast to discuss her position as she promotes diversity and inclusion amongst academic personnel. She explains the importance of faculty retention, methods used to confront biases within the departments, and shares what motivated her to create a podcast centered around the issues that impact the Black Community. 

Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jolly podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key holds the inaugural position of academic affairs director of Faculty Diversity and Retention at Old Dominion University. She’s also a tenured associate professor of Human Services. Dr. Key addresses barriers to diversity through her research efforts and development of training and programming focused on creating a more inclusive environment. Her work is rooted in anti-racist policies and practice. Her research focuses on further defining the professional identity of human services practitioners and delineating practice with vulnerable populations. She believes in the empowerment of vulnerable populations evidenced through her research, international work with pregnant teens and efforts to support at-risk families. Her expertise also includes undergraduate teaching, course development, digital and culturally competent pedagogy, service learning, improving disciplinary writing, the development of sustainable study abroad programs, and the effective mentorship of faculty, undergraduate students and doctoral learners. Dr. Key has focused many of her efforts on the empowerment of women in higher education and through community-based programs.

Dr. Key offers a summer leadership coaching program for women in higher education, which focuses on career ownership and leadership development. Her recent op-ed can be found in the Virginian-Pilot and sheds light on the current issues impacting professional women as mothers and caregivers during COVID-19. She’s received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, most recently being recognized as 2019 Women in Business and the 2020 Darden College of Education International Education Award. As if that wasn’t enough, she also recently started” her own podcast called, Making it Plain with Dr. Key.”

So I am so pleased to finally get to speak to you Dr. Key, because you are in your own right, you have a podcast and I know you interview lots of people, but you have such a tremendous background yourself in terms of what you’re doing and the passion that you’re bringing. So I’m so excited that we can get into some of your story and your background.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Thank you for having me. I’m excited as well. I love sharing my story and any insight that I have.

Melyssa Barrett: Yes. Yes. Well, so why don’t we just dive right in and maybe you can give us a little bit of background about your story and your professional journey. And then, we’ll also get into your podcast and some of the diversity and inclusion components that you’re working with in education.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Yes. So I am an associate professor, a tenured associate professor and a director of Faculty, Diversity and Retention at Old Dominion University in Virginia. And my journey, I would say is a little bit different probably than many people. I was a single mother for, oh, maybe a little over a decade, until I remarried. And during that time, I had to juggle a lot, getting the kids, going to work. And I was doing this lifestyle here. I had to work nine to five. I had to get off work, pick up the kids from afterschool care, get them to their activities. And I say, I needed a job that allowed me some flexibility to where I can do these things for the kids, be at their programs and stuff, without worrying about my job saying, “I’m taking too much time off” or “No, we need you to stay.” Or at the time, I was in Michigan and it was snow storms and they were like, “You still have to come in.” And I’m like, “School’s out. The snow is six feet high, have to drive.” You’re not…

And I just have all these stress and pressure. So I started to reassess my career, where I wanted to be what I wanted to do, what I could afford to do. Right? When you’re a single parent, it’s like you have one income. You’re juggling everything and the kids want everything. And I said, “I have to make enough for two parents.” Right? That was probably the biggest thing. I need to make enough for two parents. And this little $35,000 that I’m making is not cutting it.

Melyssa Barrett: Right.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  And at the time, I had a master’s degree. And so I decided to go back to school and I’ll never forget, my mother said, “Are you sure you want to do that with two kids?” And I said, “I’m absolutely sure.” I have to go back to school because how else will I provide, how else would I give them the kind of lifestyle that I want them to have? How else would I not struggle? The time I was living in an apartment, I said, “I don’t want to raise my kids in an apartment.” Those things did something to me. And I’m not saying anything is wrong with that. But there wasn’t like on my dream list of goals on how I wanted to raise my kids. And I was literally raising them in an apartment for years. I mean, for that whole time, we were in an apartment.

And I went back to school and I had to go to nontraditional. I had to do online education because they had to fit with that single motherhood type of thing. And I tell people all the time. My schedule went like this. I went to work 9 to 5. I pick the kids up. I take the kids to one to dance, one to karate. They were down the street from each other. I swing back by karate, pick the other one up, watch them for a few minutes so they could see my face, swing back to the dance, watch her for a few minutes so she can see my face. While I’m waiting there, I read some of the books or readings I have to do for school at night, take them home, fix them dinner, give them baths, put them in a bed, put dishes in the dishwasher. Then I sit down and study. And I’m doing work until three in the morning. Then I go to sleep. Then I’m back up at 6:00 AM and I’m doing it all over again. And that was the lifestyle that I had for four years.

Melyssa Barrett: Wow.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  That’s how I did that. And from that point, just a lot of life things happened at the same time that kind of impacted that journey. I was laid off from my job. I ran out of funding for my tuition right in the last weeks of school. And I had to make a lot of decisions and one of the decisions that I made was that I’m not giving up on his PhD. And I didn’t. And I called everyone until I got some people to pay for my tuition. I got a scholarship from school. They paid for the rest of my tuition and I hustled day and night. I worked that degree like I was working that job. I went from 6:00 AM to 3:00 AM, type in and I finished it in record time, graduated and was offered a position and relocated my kids.

Melyssa Barrett: Wow. Congratulations. That’s awesome. And you got your PhD in?

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  My PhD is in Human Services with a focus on Social and Community Services. And I ended up at ODU from that point on.

Melyssa Barrett: Wow, that’s phenomenal. I mean, that’s real talk when we’re talking about flexibility and workplace. Now we have a lot of remote work and things like that and flexibility is maybe a little bit easier, but…

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  They didn’t have that back then.

Melyssa Barrett: Yes.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  They want to punch in that clock, me having to punch that clock with those kids, it was not working for me. It just wasn’t.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  It was just a struggle. So yeah. Times have changed now. And I hope that when we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, we need to talk about those single parents. We need to think about those parents right now who are… People are saying, “You have to go back to things normal in August.” That’s what they like. You’re going back things normal. But those parents are like, “Hold on.” The kid are not normal. How can you definitively say that? It’s a big issue. It’s a big issue, especially when we get into diversity, equity and inclusion.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well, and I know you spend a lot of time working on areas for diversity and inclusion in your day job. So maybe you can bring us there. What areas do you focus on? I know you’ve mentioned retention in your title, which is interesting because everybody now seems to be going from diversity and inclusion to diversity, equity and inclusion, and your title actually uses the word retention, which is an important element that sometimes I think takes a back seat to recruitment.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  I think when we talk about faculty diversity at a predominantly white institution, we can’t talk about recruitment without talking about retention, because one of the main issues is that you may hire them, but can you get them to stay? And can you get them to stay means, is really dealing with those diversity and equity issues. We’re dealing with discriminatory practices, systemic racism that’s built into the institution of higher ed that was never built for people of color in the first place. It was white male dominated, only meant to educated white males. So we have to talk about all of those things. So I think retention was strategically put in my title because we were hiring the people. We’re hiring them. We’re not keeping them. And so we need to work on dealing with those issues that are preventing them from staying and people think money.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  It is always money.

Melyssa Barrett: Well, and can you talk a little bit about what some of those things are that are important to people besides money?

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Yeah. Well, first we need to talk about the tenure process, right? It is a very, it’s a process that really focused on people’s evaluations of your expertise and your contributions to academia. It is also a place where a lot of bias can take place because it is not structured enough to prevent bias. It is very objective. I mean, you can… There are so many loopholes. Your resume is not going to look like mine, so I can’t say that someone else’s journey is exactly what you need for tenure, and you need to follow this journey. That’s not how it works in academia. So the tenure process is riddled with discriminatory practices. And if anyone has any research on it, you’ll see that there’s been a number of… Oh, the biggest norm right now. Let’s talk about Cornel West. He didn’t get tenure at Harvard. Cornel West, everybody knows him. He didn’t get tenure at Harvard.

That’s the tenure process, right? There are a lot. You can just Google the number of black people who are not getting tenure. So we have a tenure process that is just riddled with discriminatory practices, because there are loopholes in that process that can allow them to discredit the work that you do. Part of the tenure process is publications. You need to publish in these high impact journals. These high impact journals have people dominated by Caucasian people, dominated by white males who sit and review the work that you do. People of color, typically research and write on issues that impact marginalized people. They’re people, themselves, right? They want to impact their own communities. That research is challenged at some of those large journal. So now you have that process where we can’t get into the journals that you want us to have in order to get tenure, because they are looking at our research and declining their research agenda. They are declining those articles.

I mean, they’re challenging things like, I had feedback that said, “Why would you study in Jamaica? What can the Jamaicans teach us about entrepreneurship?” Because you think their third world. They’re built on entrepreneurship. Have you ever been? But you don’t know, so you’re going to discredit everything that I do. So we have those things. We have so many systemic barriers that prevent people of color from actually getting through the tenure process. And within those issues, we have departments that are white male dominated departments, maybe a few white females in there, but they don’t have many people of color in those departments. And how they operate, how they do things comes off as clique-ish right? Making people of color feeling like they’re not a part of, that they don’t belong, that they are on the outside. That caused mental health challenges, that causes things like impostor syndrome, that causes individuals to not thrive in those departments. And therefore, they’re looking for other places where they can thrive.

Melyssa Barrett: It’s funny that you mentioned that. As you think about academia, I think a lot of us that have worked in corporate world, see similar things where the departments, they have this whole, whether you call it likeability or clicks or those things that are happening. And so you do have the opportunity where you’re spreading the net, you’re recruiting people. Then they come in and they go, “This is not what I had in mind.” And they leave. And so there is this question about, “What can we do to keep people, especially when they’re underrepresented in an industry.” I come from a background in finance. Typically, STEM and all of those things are very lacking diversity. And certainly, there’s a lot of opportunity for underrepresented individuals to come into that area.

So it’s interesting to me how there’s so many different parallels when we talk about what’s going on with business and you see a large portion of people that come through the university system, and there are challenges on the university side and even in elementary school and you could go down the line.

And so, there’s clearly, when you’re talking about structural barriers, there’s a whole realm of structural barriers throughout some of these life event where their experiences are so different than somebody that lives across the street from me and looks totally different than me. Really, really interesting.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  So many different barriers. Yeah.

Melyssa Barrett: So can you talk about, what are some of those solutions maybe, that are being instituted or things that may be working in the realm of academia that can help other industries even.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  One of the things I think that has to be done immediately is that we have to create a sense of community for those individuals of color. We have to target the issues head on, discussing the issues. And when I talk about sense of community, I’m thinking of outside the department. I always tell people, they go on these little departments and then they die in those little departments, right?” But if we can create a space for them to have a voice that extends beyond that department, they will feel like they can share their perspective, share their experience, share their expertise. And there is a community that supports them, even though their department may not be where it should be yet, they have the support of the greater community. I think that is so important, providing that outlet for individuals to have a voice, but also challenging the system. Right?

We have to talk about the real issues like racial trauma, what that looks like, how that may show up in the classroom, how that may show up in your colleagues, right? Coping skills. These are the coping skills that work to kind of combat racial trauma, how to recognize microaggressions, “Oh, your colleagues don’t know what microaggressions are. Let’s explain what microaggressions are to them and provide some education on that.” So we are having the conversations that we once never had. When I first started in academia, I remember going to a department meeting and they were talking about diversity. They wanted to add a diversity segment to the faculty governance organization. And I remember some persons stand up and said, “Why should diversity be important to faculty? That is not a faculty issue.” And those are white male. It’s not a faculty issue because you’re a white male.

Melyssa Barrett: Right.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Have you been a person of color, you will understand why diversity is so important for faculty, for your colleagues and for your students. Right? And that was eight, almost nine years ago, right? And now we’re here and we’re having real conversations about issues that we see, experience that we have. We’re talking about the hate against Asian-Americans. We’re asking Asian-Americans to share their experience. And the thing is, they have a voice, but these other people who say, “We don’t need to talk about diversity,” they’re hearing the experiences that they were never once open to hearing and never had the opportunity to hear.

So we had to do that. We had to create that have a voice, but we also have to target those issues in those departments. And we have to put some real effort into addressing them. And for us, some people really are for diversity and inclusion and really want a change, but they don’t know how to have the conversation. They don’t know how to address it and we’re training people to have those conversations in their departments, to know how to say it, to be comfortable in their own words, to find their own voice, to address issues head on, because there are a lot of allies and advocates out there and they want to use their position of power to influence change, but they don’t know how. Right? And they’re not comfortable saying, “I don’t know how.”

So we had to create a space where they’re comfortable saying, “You know what, Narketta what’d you think I should do?” Right? And they come to me and say, “What do you think I should do?” And so we had this conversation and we talk about grappling with your own experiences, right? Finding out where you are. Are you competent culturally? Are you comfortable? What’s going on in your family? I always say, you can start by addressing the issues within your small groups and then you can be this big advocate for change, but if you can’t call out racism in your home or you can’t call out racism in your family, how are you going to be this big advocate for change in your community or in your workplace.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Oh my goodness.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  I’m having those kind of conversations. So we’re doing work in departments that extend beyond, “Oh, let’s have the implicit, explicit bias training.” And assuming that that training is going to stop bias or stop discrimination or stop microaggressions, because the research tells us that that training does not do that. It just isn’t training.

Melyssa Barrett: Right. They just check the box activity.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  They check their box. And I tell them, they have to be willing to do the work to change their heats. We can provide all these different trainings, but we’re talking about changing a person’s heart, really digging deep and finding out where their biases lie, calling what that bias is right out, “I’m racist.” Whatever it is, calling out for themselves, and then addressing those issues and showing them how to do that. And I think that’s more important, but I always tell people, “You have to be willing to do the work. I can talk about this stuff all day, but this is you.” And I also say, if you’re uncomfortable with what I’m saying, like if you’re angry right now, you want to combat and get out angry, I’m not angry. I’m just talking. So if you’re angry, you need to trace where that anger is coming from. Why is it there and get to the root of that anger, deal with it. Because that anger, that tension that you have is impacting your decision, your relationships, how you treat people, all of those things. So you have to deal with that.

Melyssa Barrett: Well, and it’s funny too, because I think sometimes that tension that people feel is not necessarily a bad thing, right? That is their unconscious waking up and saying, “Something’s not right with what I have been taught and what my behaviors are and what my beliefs are.” And so it’s kind of like, we have to look at ourselves first and really be open to questioning what our life experience has been. Because certainly if my life experience is different, then I should be open to just listening to your experience. It doesn’t make invalidate the experience that someone else has had.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. And we just had to be open to doing the work. And it’s a personal journey that you don’t have to come to me and say, “Oh Narketta, I realize that I have these stolen…” That’s a personal journey. I’m just asking you, I’m inviting you to take it, take that journey because we can create better environments for everyone if we’re willing to take it. And so also, we have to address curriculum and all of those different things that can impact others’ journeys within our classrooms, because you can’t… If your department is toxic and not really welcoming to people of color, that department is also toxic and not very welcoming to students. And people always say, “Oh no, we welcome all our students.” There is no way to turn that off. How do you turn that off? How do you put a boundary between how you treat your students and how you treat your colleagues? It’s the same thing, right? And so we have to do that.

So there’s a lot of work right now, really. I will say within the last year, it’s a lot of work because of George Floyd, right? People were like, “Oh my goodness. We have to address this stuff.” And so there’s a lot of work being done. Time has helped to reveal and breathe to life, what was once hidden. And so a lot of them institutions are doing work around it. And they’re doing everything from not just sending out a message. I’m talking about doing the work, putting funding towards programming, policy, procedures and stuff that really sort of promote inclusion and equity. And that’s what we’re seeing, a lot of programs on both sides of recruiting, retention, teaching. I mean, in all areas.

Melyssa Barrett: And clearly, we need to figure out how to make an impact to those journals.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  And the journal thing is a whole another thing because we submit our articles to journals. They don’t pay us, but they publish our articles and charge lots of money-

Melyssa Barrett: For access.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  … to actually buy those journals. The flip side to that is that institutions, academic institutions are saying, “Whoa, this is way too much. We don’t have the budgets to buy the journal.” So, that means I go through this work, I get published in the journal you tell me to publish, and you don’t even have the money to buy the journal, a subscription to the journal, to see my publication for me to sign that publication to students. You don’t either have the money to buy it. How dare you tell me to publish in a journal that you can’t afford to purchase a subscription to. That’s the world that we’re living in. It’s a case to 22. I deal with who ask me to do, I work hard. I’ve gotten to this journal by the grace of God, and you don’t even have a subscription to pull the journal up.

Melyssa Barrett: Wow.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  There’s a lot of issues that are riddled in the higher ed system that has to be really… They have to be addressed. And it’s so many. We’re not there where it’s like, “Oh, it’s all handled.” It’s not handled. It’s still there.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well, wow. That is really fascinating. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

So I know that you also have a podcast yourself that you kicked off and it’s called, “Making it plain with Dr. Key.” And so tell us a little bit about why you started that and what you wanted to give with podcasts.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  My podcast is dedicated to issues that impact black families, black communities, and black women, period. I’m not interested in anything else. And the reason why I wanted a podcast dedicated to that and the reason why I called it, “Making it plain” was that I publish articles and stuff, but the layman people, regular normal people, they’re not reading that stuff, right? They don’t know how to translate that jargon into everyday life and everyday practice. And I wanted a podcast that put things in plain English, talked about a real issues with some of the people that are behind some of the research and some of the journey and really have the knowledge about the issue.

I wanted to give them a platform to talk to me very plainly and explain these issues so that the common person can hear it and understand it and recognize or resonate with it or take strategies back. And so that was my idea for it and it really started with mental health. Because we started talking about mental health literacy amongst the black community and how when it comes to mental health, they’re very not trusting of doctors and institutions and they don’t want to get their medications there to help, because they don’t understand mental health and because we’ve been targeted historically and labeled. If you go back to slavery, those that were free, they labeled them as having a mental health issue were more for those free slaves than it was for the other slave. So, we got a distrust with the system, but we had to be… We had to talk about mental health. We had to spread the education about mental health and talk about it in layman’s terms, because it’s really impacting the black community and we have to be more open to getting the help that we need to really survive.

So, that was the premise that was behind all of that. But now, we start opening this thing up and we started having a lot of conversations and those started happening in like the 16, 19 project. And I wanted to bring a historian in that knew all this stuff. And he was putting it in layman’s terms because the black people don’t know their history. We weren’t taught our own history in schools. The only way that we know our history is that we took maybe an African-American history class in the college level. Other than that, we don’t know our history. So I wanted to give some insights to what our history is, what has happened to us, what our journey has been outside of Jim Crow. Because a lot of times, we do know about Jim Crow because of movies and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s been a journey. We just had all kinds of topics, all kinds of trendy topics, some of the tiny thing that’s going on and I’m getting ready for my season two of it.

Melyssa Barrett: Yes.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  It was birth…

Melyssa Barrett: Well, season one was great. I mean, I was going to say that some of the topics that you had, I know you had all Black Lives Matter, which I thought was interesting to play between all lives and black lives. But at the end of the day, all black lives do matter.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Yeah, we talked about transgenders, LGBTQ. We need to talk about it.

Melyssa Barrett: Yes. I mean, you’ve talked about sisterhood, you’ve talked about domestic violence. I think you had some black hair in there for one of them.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Hair loss for black women. These are issues that impact us in the media and we’re ashamed about it and we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it.

Melyssa Barrett: I think there’s also a degree of even within our own community, it’s like, “Are you wearing natural hair? Are you not? Are you.” And then… So there’s all of this, the Crown Act and things that are going on outside of our world and how we are perceived. And then there’re challenges even within our own communities.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  And that conversation was such a good conversation because on it, I had one of my good friends and she wears dress. She’s really into the natural hair journey and I didn’t. And she had no clue about why I didn’t. She was like, “Oh my God, I didn’t even know. I was just assuming that you were just caught up in this, the Hollywood image of women. And that’s the reason why you didn’t wear your natural hair and I didn’t even understand about hair loss.” I came into academia and lost all my hair from stress and hereditary. And the doctor said, I can’t get it back. And my hair was long and thick and there’s nothing I could do about it. So you don’t even know what people’s journey are and we were looking at, I’m like, “Oh, she’s caught up in the hype of this and that, that, that.” You don’t know that journey, but you’re good to know. Right?

Melyssa Barrett: All about awareness.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  There could be a young person that’s a cancer patient that has to wear a wig because she’s a cancer patient, but you’re judging her based on the wig that she wears and you don’t even know her heart. We have to stop this. So that one was personal. It was good. Afterwards, she was like, “I had no clue.” Who does have clue.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Isn’t that something. But that’s why it’s so important I think, when we start talking about telling stories and connecting with people, because you don’t know the journey. And everybody’s perspective is so valuable to create the awareness that you may be lacking. And one of the things that I… I was reading a book and I interviewed Dr. Helen Turnbull. She has a book called, “The illusion of Inclusion.” And she spends a lot of time talking about how we think where… It’s a journey that we can get to the end of. “Okay, now I’m inclusive.” But it’s a journey, right? Because there’s things that can be triggered whether it’s unconscious bias or otherwise, all along the way, which I find really kind of that, that is what makes life and that is why we’re continuous learners. There are so many elements.

I picked up so many different nuggets of information through your podcast. So keep doing it. This has been a labor of love for me, totally outside of my comfort zone, but I’m enjoying being able to connect with people and just really kind of hear about all of the interesting things and ways that we learn. I mean, the way the brain works, the behaviors that we want to change. I mean, it’s amazing. And I’m thoroughly grateful that the conversation isn’t just between specific ethnicities or nationalities, but we are having a global conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion, which is so exciting and important,

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  I think it’s very timely. So you [inaudible] your podcasts during the pandemic as well, right?

Melyssa Barrett: I did, yeah.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  I think some amazing things has come out of us slowing down. Right? Slow down a little bit, take some of the driving time on the roads away and sitting down and thinking about what we like to do and what we want to do in bringing that creative side. So the pandemic wasn’t all bad.

Melyssa Barrett: No, that’s true. I mean, and we talk about… We spent a lot of time talking about businesses that have shut down, which has certainly had impacts. I’ve heard that I think there’s more than 800,000 women that have left the workforce during the pandemic. And so it reminds me of your story when you think, when you took your journey and you decided, “You know what, I need to reevaluate my career and what I want to do and where I want to go.” And I think a lot of people took the time during the slowdown to kind of say, “Yeah. I mean, “Enough is enough. I can’t do this and that and where do I really want to be?”

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  How I resonated with that is I thought about what if this happened when I was a single mother with my two kids. And I mean, I wanted to cry because I knew there would have been no way I could function. If a job was telling me to come into work and I had these two kids and they were at home. There would’ve been no way that I would function. So I understand why some of my daughter’s teachers, they left teaching because they would’ve had to come back to work. It was probably very hard decisions because we like parenthood, we love parenthood, but we also kind of… Some of us like to have that balance between our careers too. And so, I can imagine that it’s not easy, definitely.

Melyssa Barrett: And kudos to the parents out there that are struggling through this entire pandemic, because honestly, my kids are grown. I have some little grandkids, but I can’t even imagine having to… I mean, I went to somewhere and I saw this mother who was working in an office. I think I took my car in and she had her three kids all with three different computers, listening to three different teachers as she was trying to work. And I was just like, I can’t even imagine having to do all that, plus work. I mean, it’s amazing what people are actually doing to survive.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  They have to be creative because they got to work or they’re begging their employers like, “Look, I need to bring my kids. I need to be able to do this.” They’re making a lot of sacrifices. It is not an easy time. So when you start to say, “Everyone’s going to be back to normal in September,” that provokes a lot of anxiety. I think we need to rethink this thing.

Melyssa Barrett: I don’t think we’re going back to normal and we’re not going back. We’re going somewhere, but I don’t think it’s back then.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  They think it’s just going to be normal and they just want to jump into it and I think they need to phase very slowly into it, because normal is not what we will have. We might sit some normality.

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, for sure. Awesome. Well, any other important takeaways you wanted to leave us with? So many nuggets today.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Yeah. I just think, like you said, when we’re talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, we have to seek to understand the experiences of everyone and know that it is a journey, that my institution and no other institution is going to wake up fully diverse, equitable, and inclusive overnight. It is a journey towards excellence that we are all on and we all have triggers that send us back down that line and we have to get back up again. I would say that the pandemic was a trigger. Some institutions had to fully sort of disclose some of that, some of that racist history and address it. And so we just have to be along for the ride. We have to be open to adjust. Now, the things that we’re doing today might be good to address in diversity, equity and inclusion, but it may not be good for tomorrow. I think we have to be flexible. We have to be creative and we have to listen to people.

I don’t know about anti-Asian, the Asian experience. I’m not Asian, but I have to seek to understand that experience to find out how we can better support that community and those individuals so that they feel included. And that’s the same thing with black people. You may not understand the journey. You may not note the journey, but you have to be open to understanding it instead of trying to discredit that journey is not their journey. Right? So..

Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely, well said, well said. That’s the perfect spot for us to end today. So I just want to thank you, Dr. Key for joining me for the Jolly podcast. And this is another point where there’s an opportunity to tell a story, but there’s so much richness in what you’re providing, the work that you’re doing. So, I really want to just give you a shout out and thank you for all you’re doing and for our community and abroad.

Narketta Sparkman-Key:  Thank you and thank you for having me.

Thanks for joining me on the Jolly podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.