Sharing the Story of Progress

Through the Diversity Action Alliance, Duke communicators further inclusion

Sheriece Smith
Working Toward Racial Justice series graphic by Zaire McPhearson, an instructor in the Duke Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies.

By 2021, as Duke’s chapter grew to around 50 communicators across Duke, various subcommittees were focusing energy on projects producing tangible steps toward diversifying the ranks of Duke’s communications professionals and ensuring stories told reflected the institution’s diversity.

Since then, Duke’s communicators have worked to understand the challenges communicators of color face at Duke by analyzing data from the 2021 Duke Campus Climate Survey and listening to focus groups of communicators from underrepresented minorities. They’ve also organized focus groups with North Carolina Central University students participating in Duke’s communications internship program to learn how Duke, and other workplaces, can be more inclusive.

A new mentoring program, which connects diverse early-career communicators, as well as staff members considering a communications career, with more experienced colleagues at Duke, is finishing its first full year of operation. Communicators have also produced an online catalog of resources for inclusive communications and an ethical imagery guide offering insights on how to make visual communication inclusive.

The mentorship program has helped Sheriece Smith expand her skills. As an administrative assistant in the Office of the Provost since 2022, Smith’s role includes of communications with event planning and new faculty orientation.

In a previous role with the government of the British Virgin Islands, Smith gained experience writing speeches and news releases. Now with mentor Cat de Montjoye of the Duke Health & Fitness Center, Smith is expanding her knowledge of marketing.

“Communications and media is ever-changing, so there are always things to learn,” Smith said.

This spring, the work of the Diversity Action Alliance chapter at Duke continues. One subcommittee is planning opportunities for communicators to hear from diversity experts, while another is working on an audit tool to help communicators assess diversity represented in their work.

“There’s the saying that ‘representation matters,’ and it truly does,” said Diversity Action Alliance member Bernadette Gillis, a senior news writer for the Duke University School of Medicine’s Office of Strategic Communications. “It’s important to see people that look like you represented in the workplace, in the classroom, in the lab. We’re here. We’re all here.”

Learn about Duke’s Diversity Action Alliance chapter: