Sparkle Dalphinis and Michelle Hoereth
Director of Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Hoereth and Associate Director of Student Recruitment Sparkle Dalphinis

Director of Diversity and Inclusion Michelle Hoereth leads Diversity and Inclusion-related programming for both students and staff at Harris.  Associate Director of Student Recruitment Sparkle Dalphinis serves as a point of contact for first generation and underrepresented students throughout the application process. They sat down for a Q&A about their experiences as Diversity and Inclusion leaders at Harris.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion at Harris?

Michelle: First, we chose to call our programs Diversity and Inclusion because once named, it makes us accountable to think about recruitment, retention, and financial support through this lens.

This may very likely be the most diverse place many students will ever be, so I aim for them to leave as more conscientious policymakers. I think about ways to thoughtfully engage community and include students in the process during the time they are here, especially because at the beginning of their policy careers, they are very receptive to incorporating inclusivity in their toolkit.

We have to think about what progress looks like in this area. There is no rulebook for implementing diversity, no set of boxes to check off, and no “end” to our work. I measure progress by knowing students feel like they belong here.

This is where you have to appreciate both qualitative and quantitative data: you can’t run a regression on diversity.

Sparkle: I think of diversity in recruiting much more broadly than just ethnicity, but sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, and more. Diversity and inclusion is a broad and ongoing effort, and we need to continue to challenge ourselves to understand cultural nuances. There needs to be an ongoing dialogue to include underrepresented populations and ensure everyone has a seat at the table.

What are some of the current diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives we have that incoming students should know about?

Sparkle: On January 28, we have an Admissions Reception followed by the UChicago Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

We also have Diversity Day, which gives students an opportunity to connect with students and faculty in person. And last spring, we hosted our inaugural Staff Diversity Recruitment day, where we invited Diversity and Inclusion staff from other universities to collaborate on understanding students’ needs and ensuring their undergraduate students will continue to have access to resources when they transfer to Harris.

Michelle: For this year’s Common Read, students selected Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which talks about criminal justice reform and touches on several other policy sectors. Each quarter, we will look at issues in the book from a different policy perspective. The first discussion featured UChicago law professor Craig Futterman, whose work was instrumental in the release of the Laquan McDonald videos.

We also have a lot planned for Black History Month this year, as well as art throughout Harris chosen to promote conversation around policy and how it affects specific populations.

Can you think of a highlight of your experience working in Diversity and Inclusion at Harris?

Sparkle: The community is the highlight. Seeing students sitting and working together in study groups, and having important dialogues. I often see them greeting each other with hugs, which makes me smile.  

Michelle: I walked in on the tail end of a diversity training session and heard a student say to the facilitator, “Thank you for giving me the courage to say things I have never heard myself say before.” That made me feel my work had been successful.

What advice would you offer incoming students?

Sparkle: Challenge the status quo, ask tough questions, and be yourself in an unfamiliar space.

Embrace and connect with the people in the surrounding communities that you are researching. Don't stay in the Hyde Park bubble.

Michelle: Approach your time here at Harris with an open mind and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Challenge yourself. Make sure you spend every day trying to learn something new from someone else. Take time to learn your classmates’ unique stories: that will make your time here a richer experience and mold you into a more conscientious policymaker.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out our other post: Meet Diversity and Inclusion Leaders at Harris!