Higher Education Administration Alumna Advocates for Equity Work as NC State Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity Intern, Develops Diversity Education Resources
For Miyah Wilson ‘20MED, the route to success was majoring in biology, going to medical school and becoming a pediatric geneticist. But taking Organic Chemistry drained her of that passion and she sought an alternate career path.
While serving as a resident advisor at the University of Nevada, Reno, Wilson discovered an interest in student affairs. After earning her biology degree with a public health minor, she searched for graduate programs that would build a foundation for her newfound discovery.
“My decision to pursue my master’s degree in higher education reflects my journey to step out on faith and begin taking the steps to create a better, more inclusive, more authentic learning environment for so many others that will come after me,” Wilson said. “It has been me redefining what success looks like and feels like to me.”
She found the Higher Education Administration program in the NC State College of Education to be the perfect fit for her goals. Many of the faculty in the program, Wilson says, had interests and specialties in college access, diversity, equity and inclusion, and a lot of their publications offered critical perspectives that challenged dominant narratives in society.
“I admired the work of Dr. Joy Gaston Gayles, both as a Black woman who also loves and played sports, but also just learning about her journey from STEM to student affairs and seeing how she flawlessly integrated the two,” Wilson said. “She was who I needed to see to know that this huge career change I was undergoing would be worth it in the end.”
As a graduate student, Wilson landed an internship with the NC State Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED). In that role, she helped revamp the Equal Opportunity Institute, implemented a series of Lunch and Learns for the OIED staff, assisted with compiling and reporting evaluation data from various OIED workshops and programs, and assisted with the implementation of some upcoming program modules. But one of her biggest and most rewarding projects, she said, was curating and developing a Diversity Education Resources list.
Wilson took what resources OIED already featured, benchmarked resources used at peer institutions, combined that with information she had learned from past workshops and conferences and resources that were passed down to her from others. She also partnered with the NC State Libraries to include resources they had available through the library system.
“It was important for me to work on creating this as a solution to so many of the problems I have heard about. I hope people truly interact with this list. I hope people go beyond just reading some of the resources for themselves and utilize the resources to challenge themselves and others,” she said. “I hope people utilize some of the resources in syllabi, in classroom discussions and in programs.”
Her work on this list came during a crucial time when people found themselves at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The world also saw an increase in racial unrest and tensions that were taking place throughout the country. As a result, there was a significant increase in the sharing of resources and knowledge collectively through communities. Wilson was able to cross-reference those resources with her published list and add to it.
It was important for OIED to host a resource bank, Wilson says, because so many departments and individuals navigate the site as one of their first sources for seeking information regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. In the past, the site hasn’t hosted an updated, comprehensive resource list. And there are so many resources, in so many different learning styles.
“I really like making others laugh and living as unapologetically as I can. This is what drives my interests and passions for working in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion because I want others to be able to live as unapologetically as they can, and I recognize that a lot of work has to happen for some in order for that to occur,” Wilson said.
Wilson has always found herself advocating and advancing equity work in the majority of the spaces she has occupied within her educational career. Her passion for equity and inclusion work is rooted partly in survival — creating spaces that are welcoming for herself — and longevity — ensuring others that come after her have the proper tools, environment and climate to thrive holistically and unapologetically as them.
“I want to position myself in higher education so that I may be a light to other students when they might be at a crossroads. My Master of Education degree has not only given me the tools to do so, but it cultivated my voice in the process,” she said. “I was able to explore who I am and figure out how to provide critical perspectives throughout my time as a graduate student.”