DEI Award Finalist: Lynita Yarbrough

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Lynita Yarbrough conducting speech therapy at TCU’s laboratory school, Starpoint School.

Harris College’s Lynita Yarbrough, assistant professor of professional practice at the Davies School of Communications Sciences and Disorders at TCU, and first-ever DEI Advocate for Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences is a finalist for the award.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award is an annual award created to honor the challenging task of further transforming our community into one that not only celebrates TCU’s mission but also creates a world-class university building on a heritage of inclusion. These individuals are recognized for providing TCU with the critical voices necessary for change and for their sustained actions to transform TCU by making it an even more diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environment and place of employment.

The award-recipient is named at Fall Convocation and a photo gallery of recipients will be on display at the Mary Couts Burnett Library.

“I am a bilingual speech pathologist and a Latina. So, I have some insight as to what it’s like to be a minority in a predominantly white space – not only as a former student and current faculty member but also in my profession of speech-language pathology, which is made up of predominantly white women.”

Yarbrough always had an interest in learning more about inequities in the healthcare community. With one daughter who is starting their first year of college and another daughter who recently graduated college, her desire to offer support grew. She’s spent the last few years immersing herself in research to learn the best evidence-based practices to navigate this space, especially in higher education.

R.I.S.E.

Glenda Daniels (left) and Lynita Yarbrough (right) at the completion of TCU’s R.I.S.E. program.

“When you have a student of color who tells you, ‘I wish I could look around and there were more people like me, not just in my cohort, but in the faculty,’” says Yarbrough. “You’re like, ‘wow, that’s a problem.’”

The desire for advocacy and support led her to TCU’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, where she became a trained facilitator and provides training for faculty and staff, different departments, and undergraduate and graduate students.

Responsible for Inclusion and Sustaining Excellence (R.I.S.E.) is a seven-month program open to TCU staff and faculty committed to inclusive excellence. The certificate is designed to provide participants tools and learning opportunities to advance personal and professional development in diversity, equity and inclusion. Yarbrough did not hesitate to apply. She remembers advocates from departments like the recreation center, the chemistry department and the medical school – all of them eager to learn how they can make their spaces more inclusive.

Part of completing the program requires creating and implementing a new DEI initiative. Yarbrough called it her “research project”. Hers was “MY Harris.”

MY Harris participants at the first meeting of the 2022 fall semester.

MY Harris

“Me + You” – that is the meaning behind “MY Harris.” The group offers support for students at Harris College who identify as members of underrepresented groups. The group’s objective is to provide training and opportunities for mentorship with other faculty and staff of Harris College, who also identify as members of underrepresented groups. The hope is for members of the TCU community to be able to come together and talk about the challenges that are facing TCU as an institution, personally in the classroom and as members and allies of underrepresented groups.

“One topic of discussion includes identifying microaggressions that are experienced across all spaces,” said Yarbrough, “then brainstorming strategies that will empower students to recognize that they are extremely valuable members of this community.”

DEI Efforts

Prior to these more formal efforts, Yarbrough was hosting book club discussions. The most recent book discussed was a New York Times best-seller that explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality written by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. Books were distributed and participants were instructed to read over the winter break and discussed upon their return to campus.

This year, book club participants will be reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi will be addressing TCU as part of the Office of DEI’s programming. “The goal is to fill spaces and recognize where there needs to be more shared resources,” said Yarbough. Harris College has also formed its own DEI committee, Harris United.

A positive shift has been apparent since these DEI initiatives were implemented. Now, there is a voice and increased recognition of how much more needs to be done.

Having an open dialogue, saying things that need to be said, is only the first step. Making more deliberate efforts across the units is next. There is still a long way to go.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done, and excited to see what else we’re going to do,” said Yarbough.

Other TCU Initiatives

As the DEI Advocate for Harris College, Yarbrough interacts with other units’ faculty, staff and students and learn about their initiatives.

“They’re so bright and so driven!” recalled Yarbrough about other DEI advocates at TCU.

One university-wide initiative that stood out to Yarbough is the Native American monument located between Jarvis Hall and Reed Hall commemorating the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. It states: “We respectfully acknowledge all Native American peoples who have lived on this land since time immemorial. TCU especially acknowledges and pays respect to the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes upon whose historical homeland our university is located.”

“Our Collective Responsibility”

“I feel like it is my, and our, collective responsibility to respect and recognize that they’re so much more in tune with disparities and equities.”

Yarbough is motivated to do this work by her students. Hearing them and listening to their stories and their experiences motivates her to make TCU a better place.

“I feel a huge responsibility to this generation,” said Yarbrough. “I think we all have to rise to their level and move forward together.”