Rutgers School of Social Work’s Committee for Inclusion, Intersectionality, Diversity, Equity and Advancement (IIDEA) aims to advance the School’s initiatives that further inclusion, intersectionality, diversity, equity, and advancement. Ph.D. candidate Iris Cardenas explains her role on the committee and why she is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at the School and beyond. 

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What is your role in the IIDEA Committee?
I am the Ph.D. student representative. I am also part of the conceptual/theoretical framework subcommittee. 

Why did you want to be on the IIDEA Committee?
This initiative is very important to achieving and advancing our institution’s commitments to diversity and inclusion. I believe that in order to do so, the experiences of all its affiliates should be considered, including Ph.D. students’. 

What do you hope to contribute to the IIDEA Committee?
I hope to bring in my perspectives from being a student simultaneously navigating the Rutgers University system as a staff and educator, particularly in the context of the overlapping needs and challenges to creating an environment committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives important to you?
I believe that everyone deserves to have equal opportunities to thrive. Being part of a community that embraces diversity and inclusion allows us to grow collectively; there is so much to learn from each other! It is also important to acknowledge the structural conditions many face and respond appropriately to ensure that we are moving towards creating more fair experiences. 

As a social work student, what are you learning about the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of social work?
I am learning to question everything I do in terms of its accessibility and impact on various populations. I understand the complexities of the communities we work and collaborate with, so this can be challenging at times. However, being cognizant of these challenges has helped me to better my practice and strive higher every day. 

Are there any actions people can take right now to more fully commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
I believe a lot of us are already engaging in various actions. So I would say don’t forget to engage in a critical assessment of your own actions. I understand this can be difficult but only once we acknowledge and accept that we are part of the system or systems we can then more fully commit to being part of the solution. We and the systems are not separate entities.