How a Chief Diversity Officer Writes

Monica Nixon

Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Favorite punctuation?
The vocative comma.

Misspelled word?

SJU Writes: Why is writing important to work in inclusion and diversity?
MN: With concepts that can trigger immediate responses, writing can be a way through that response mechanism. Writing allows people to digest, to have an initial response—even if it’s one that negative—and to revisit. Because inclusion is so broad, being able to target how I describe this work to the aspirations of the group helps people see that this work matters and it matters to them.

SJU Writes: One of the ways I’ve noticed your use of language in inclusion and diversity work is how you use the word “minoritized.” Can you explain that term?

MN: In some cases there are groups who historically have been numerical minorities, and, given systems of power, have been on the receiving end of oppression. In others, folks may be in the numerical majority but still be in a group that experiences oppression, again given our structures of racism, sexism, ageism, a lot of different  “isms.” I think “minoritized” says something about who creates minority status, whereas “minority,” a less active descriptor, removes agency. I realize I’m just creating new jargon, but I’m trying to be more specific.

SJU Writes: What’s your favorite thing that you have written?
MN: When I was in fourth grade I entered this short story competition for the city. I don’t remember what I wrote; what I remember is that I won a prize for it and I got a ribbon and I got to pick out a pumpkin from this weird pumpkin patch at the awards ceremony. But I just remember this feeling that I wrote something, someone read it, and I got positive recognition for it. So that’s what I take away from that experience even though I don’t actually remember what I wrote.

SJU Writes: What was your most difficult writing moment?
MN: Writing my dissertation. The way my program structured dissertations was in five parts: the lit review, the problem statement, the methodology, results, and the findings. What I learned over time is that I need to outline what I want to say because I get lost in my own information. In my initial draft of my findings chapter I repeated entire sections; I was so immersed that I didn’t realize if I had already included something.

SJU Writes: How did you overcome that?
MN: One of my committee members told me not to feel bound by the artificial structure. My final draft had nine chapters because she let me create a chapter for each area of significant finding and make the structure work for me. She also reminded me I was telling a story. When she told me that, I think my jaw dropped. I ended up throwing out entire sections, which hurt, but they didn’t fit the story. I prioritized what I wanted to say and had freedom to really tell the story. I remember when I turned in the draft, I was exhausted. But with this opportunity to rethink my approach, I dived back in with all of this energy. When I turned it in again, I didn’t feel exhausted; I felt like I had accomplished something in telling these stories.

SJU Writes: Kinda like when you got the pumpkin.
MN: Exactly!

—Ann Marie Maloney ’18