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DEI Night

Tonight, UMD AMA invites Tait Brooks, the Director of Diversity Training and Education at UMD, to lead a DEI, or diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop.

He begins with a brief land acknowledgment, asking members to take a moment and consider the history of UMD and the importance of respecting and honoring important issues from the past today. Next, Brooks introduces the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and says a little bit about what they do on

campus. Noting that his area is diversity training education, he describes how he works to create trainings on diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency, as well as direct groups in dialogues about social justice and education.

man presenting to group of students
Tait Brooks presenting to AMA members

Before going into the bulk of his presentation, Brooks requests that members be mindful and respectful of others, stay curious and engaged, and understand that members should “expect and accept” a lack of closure tonight, as the discussion will cover such a wide range of important topics in only a fifty-minute timeframe. Brooks then offers short definitions of a few “standard DEI” terms like “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion,” and “social justice.”

Next, Brooks asks members to consider the vast spectrum of social identities- how they were raised, their socioeconomic status, their race and cultural background, etc. He has members split into small groups and discuss the three social identities they feel are most impactful in their day-to-day lives. Members shared identities like socioeconomic status, race, gender, and age, and Brooks engages members in a lively discussion about privilege and social identities.

He takes the audience through different examples of how differences in social identities may impact a student’s experience at UMD, asking members to respond with their thoughts about how certain people like “a first Gen terp with a learning disability” or “an international student whose first language is Cantonese” may experience academic and social life at UMD in unique ways.

Brooks then asks members to fill out a quick online survey about their opinions on race and diversity and looks at the results from the survey as they come in real-time. The survey prompted members to consider whether they agreed or disagreed with certain statements like “I don’t see race” and “talking about race is divisive.” He explains how these statements and others are common “myths” that exist surrounding discussions of diversity, and that having difficult and productive discussions about race and inclusion is critical to promoting understanding and growth as individuals and as a community.

Brooks stresses the importance of listening actively, intently, and not just to respond. He asks members how they would handle a situation in which someone says one of these myths. Students share thoughts like trying to understand the other person’s perspective and the environment they grew up in. This will allow them to have a thoughtful discussion and set the person on the right track.

students in a classroom listening to a speaker

Brooks then transitions into talking about bias and briefly explains the difference between explicit and implicit bias. He stresses that bias needs to be mitigated daily and encourages the audience to check their own biases. Because of people’s backgrounds and the ways they grew up, they have deep-seated beliefs that they often fail to consider. Brooks explains how having conversations with people about bias and watching content from those with differing perspectives and experiences is incredibly important. He says that, often because of biases, people are seen as part of a group before they are seen as an individual, and that first impressions are very important.

Brooks shares a personal anecdote about being made to feel inferior to his white friends after a restaurant in South Africa assumed he was not part of their group and failed to treat him with the same hospitality. He recalls how he acknowledged and analyzed what he was feeling and encourages the audience to “engage [their] brains” whenever they find themselves in a similar situation.

Noticing how receptive AMA members were to his story, Brooks affirms the importance of listening to others’ experiences, saying that they may not be “your” experience, but listening to, engaging with, and believing people is very important if you want to be an agent of change or an advocate for social justice. He asks members to reflect on biases they notice at UMD.

Next, Brooks narrows his scope and asks members to consider inclusion’s role in marketing, specifically. Members share that sometimes, inclusion means brands creating products for all skin tones or body types. One member reflects that implicit biases can easily lead companies to play into stereotypes and underestimate markets that may be interested in their products.

students talking to each other
AMA members discussing DEI topics

Brooks thanks members for sharing their thoughts, and notes that inclusivity is now more than ever an enormous part of marketing, as brands need to be representative and respectful of their audiences in order to reach them. He shares that he once acted as a consultant for a Baptist church, and noticed that all visuals in their 50th anniversary advertising campaign included solely men, despite a large number of their congregation being women. He recalls how the executive board of the church was immediately receptive to his observation, and realized they had overlooked the women in their church because none of them had been involved in creating the ads. Brooks uses this example to stress the importance of listening to different voices and including a wide range of ideas when planning a project, especially when it comes to marketing.

He provides several questions that advertisers should ask themselves when considering the diversity of their messaging, including: do your visuals accurately reflect the diversity of your audience; does the diversity in your images look forced; and, are you using inclusive language?

Brooks ends his workshop by showing an ad by a gender-neutral period products company promoted at Target, which featured several nonbinary and trans models and displayed the words “people have periods.” He asks members to reflect on the ad and share their initial thoughts on it in small groups. Most members appreciated the sentiment in the ad because it reinforces that cisgender women are often the only group that comes to people’s minds when they think about who has periods and suggests that something as basic as a bodily function should not be gendered or “reserved” for just one group.

Concluding his presentation, Brooks thanks members for their patience and willingness to listen, and invites them to stay connected with him and the resources offered through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UMD. You can find information about the office and its values here.

When Brooks finishes, the director of AMA’s Terpthon group, Molly Mcloughlin, shares some words about Terpthon’s goal of raising funds for Children’s National Hospital. She explains a little bit about Terpthon and how it works and encourages members to sign up for AMA’s Terpthon Team for a chance to win prizes, learn about AMA leadership and the executive board, and raise money for a really great cause. Members learn about the event and join AMA’s Terpthon team by visiting this link, hitting “Register Now,” creating an account, searching “American Marketing Association,” and filling out the remaining information.

Our meeting concludes with a few words from Luca Mancino, who reminds members that there are four executive board positions for which AMA is currently accepting applications.

Open Positions:

  • Co-VP of Membership Opportunities

  • VP of Design

  • VP of Community Affairs

  • VP of Professional Affairs

Members can apply here. Applications are due next Tuesday at 11:59 PM.

Tonight’s DEI workshop was a great way for AMA members to discuss difficult, often overlooked subjects in a safe and supportive environment. Brooks fostered a thoughtful and deeply interesting discussion that members found very valuable, especially today.

- Katherine Gough

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