Voices for Change

The Voices for Change logo on an aerial of Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus.

Pamela McKelvin-Jefferson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Columbia Business School

An Emphasis on All Marginalized Communities

When we begin to focus on one marginalized community, feelings of oppression and exclusion can begin to take hold of other marginalized communities, and this can impede our collective advancement toward liberation. I was concerned that we would get lost in the weeds of oppression and uphold the very system that oppresses all marginalized groups.

Pamela McKelvin-Jefferson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Columbia Business School

We have all benefited from the abuse of Black bodies in America, and in our efforts to attain some of the wealth, power, and privilege attributed to whiteness.

Columbia’s commitment to antiracism—with a focus on anti-Black racism—is to the service of all members of the Columbia community. The dismantling of systemic anti-Black racism in America can be a catalyst for dismantling systemic racism for other marginalized communities. Can we avoid pitting one marginalized community against another, and move toward a collective that opposes systemic oppression in all its forms? That was my biggest concern, but also my greatest hope.  

Like many of the schools at Columbia, Columbia Business School has committed to doing the hard work of introspection. Our Dean convened a Race, Diversity, and Inclusion task force to ensure that the school is inclusive and antiracist. I had the privilege of participating in listening sessions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni. It was an incredible opportunity to deepen our understanding of the ways in which systemic racism is present at our school.

I also serve as co-captain of REAL (Racial Equity Advancement and Leadership) Talk. Real Talk is a Business School staff employee resource group created by my colleague Lan To, and we convene on a monthly basis to allow for community reflections and collective learning toward advancing racial equity. Each month, we focus on one key topic and reflect critically about our roles as members of a racialized society who seek to advance racial equity. This safe space has personally provided me with opportunities for thoughtful and authentic conversations about antiracism here at Columbia Business School.

Let's Push the Needle Forward

My personal commitment is to zealously continue to educate myself, to engage in meaningful conversations, to be an ally to other oppressed communities, and to be present, aware, and committed to change. As a member of the DEI community at Columbia, my commitment is to provide opportunities for growth and community engagement for others. Outside of Columbia, I serve as a board member for Her Village Inc., where we fill a need for mothers and their children who live in poverty. This is hard but necessary work, yet I remain optimistic that the bridges we build, partners we make, and education we provide will push the needle forward.