Diversity and Inclusion Spotlights

Andrea Negrete, MA

Community Psychology PhD Student

Describe your research in five words. 

“Immigration policy and young adulthood” 

How do you think about issues of diversity and equity in your research? Please describe the work that you do in the community to advance equity.

As a community psychologist, I believe the most impactful research is rooted in the communities it aims to serve. That often requires stepping outside of the ivory tower. I grew up in a working-class immigrant community where my parents were farmworkers for about the first decade of living in the United States. My research and service are informed by my own lived experiences and the communities I grew up in. I also continue to be involved in community activism alongside organizers who are fighting for a more just world. What I learn being in collective struggle has made me a better researcher and teacher.  

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion? What motivates you to persist in the face of these challenges?

As someone who majored in psychology, I did not learn about racism and other systems of oppression in my undergraduate psychology courses. When I did read about race in psychology textbooks, it was primarily framing Black and Brown communities from a deficit framework. This is a problem. As a field that aims to understand human experience to advance well-being, our work must center the experiences of the most marginalized in our societies in ways that uplifts their strengths; and, it must focus on the systems that create oppressive conditions as the sites of intervention. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful mentors such as Drs. Noelle Hurd and Joanna Williams who have modeled what this work can look like and am excited to continue this work in my own teaching and research.   

What advice would you give to others who are considering getting involved with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Connect with and support local anti-racist efforts; do the work alongside others and not alone. This requires being open to listening, learning, and being uncomfortable. Also, remember that no one has all of the answers. We will learn and grow together. No matter how big or small, everyone has a contribution to make. Together we will win. 


Stefan Lizarzaburu

Undergraduate, Class of 2021

How do you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your research, leadership, engagement in student organizations, and community-building efforts? 

As the Executive Director of the Latinx Leadership Institute, I help lead a nine-week leadership development program each spring for first, second, and third year Latinx transfer students. The program culminates with participants researching and presenting on issues that affect Latinx students at UVA along with proposals for institutional changes that can be made to address them.

Why are you committed to excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion? What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts?

I strive to make UVA a space that people from marginalized backgrounds can see as their own. This will obviously be difficult at any large PWI, but making small changes to foster community can go a long way toward promoting a sense of belonging and care among marginalized communities.

Who was/has been an important mentor in your work (either as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion, or more generally?

Two of my close friends: Kayla Dunn and Pilar Jiménez. Kayla has served as a mentor to me because she has cared for me in a way that made me believe in myself, my voice, and my impact. I also look up to Pilar because her work ethic and selflessness inspire me on a day-to-day basis.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion? What motivates you to persist in the face of these challenges?

I think the biggest challenge is working with institutions, which do not always recognize that they need more diversity and inclusion. But I am motivated to push forward to pave the way for future students to feel a bit more supported than my class was. For example, when I participated in the Latinx Leadership Institute in 2018, my team and I proposed expanding the existing Multicultural Student Center in Newcomb Hall and creating a new Latinx Student Center. This is something students before me had been advocating for for decades, and when I developed and presented my own proposal to administrators later that year, we were denied yet again. But after several attempts, we were finally able to convince them to approve the plans. This felt huge to me because if there had been a Latinx Student Center when I first started at UVA, that would have had such a positive impact on my experience. Now, countless other students will have that. It feels worth all of the hard work to see that we’ve paved the way for a brighter tomorrow for future students.

What advice would you give to others who are considering getting involved with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?

The most important thing people can do, especially those in positions of privilege, is listen to others and learn about their experiences. Knowing when to cede the microphone is crucial, so I think the most important practice is active listening, learning, and most importantly, showing up for folks. 


Past semester spotlights

Fall 2020