Inclusion and Diversity Committee Report: What’s Your Social Location?

Highlights from the special session at the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference
/ Spring 2019 NCFR Report

IDC members: Tiffany L. Brown, Ph.D.; Chalandra M. Bryant, Ph.D., CFLE; Daphne C. Hernandez, Ph.D.; Elizabeth G. Holman, Ph.D.; Miriam Mulsow, Ph.D.; and Kristy Y. Shih, Ph.D.

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Adrienne Duke (left) speaks during panel session

The purpose of the NCFR Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) is to (a) identify the inclusion and diversity strengths, issues, and opportunities within all aspects of NCFR; (b) develop strategies and plans to examine ways that NCFR includes and excludes (however unintentionally) its members; (c) propose strategies to enhance NCFR’s ability to meet the needs of its diverse membership; and (d) document the successes of inclusivity approaches. IDC strives to engage NCFR members in scholarly dialogues on topics related to inclusivity.

At the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference in San Diego, the IDC continued its tradition of hosting special sessions on the topic of social justice with the support of the NCFR Board of Directors. The goal of these sessions is to equip participants with new insights and skills that can help to challenge institutionalized inequality one classroom experience, therapy session, or family interaction at a time. In previous years, these special sessions have examined problematic social structures; however, this latest session turned its focus inward, asking participants to consider how their own identities and vocations play a role in the intersection of social justice and Family Science.

Six NCFR members, from a diversity of backgrounds, were invited to serve as panelists to discuss how social locations shape their work in the family field. An individual’s social location is defined as the combination of factors including gender, race, social class, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic location. This makes social location particular to each individual; that is, social location is not always exactly the same for any two individuals. To advance inclusivity at NCFR, the IDC members felt that it was important for participants to learn how to acknowledge their own social locations; examine interactions within and between broader systems of privilege and oppression; and reflect on how their social locations affect their approaches to education, research, and practice.

An individual’s social location is defined as the combination of factors including gender, race, social class, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic location.

Co-moderated by Tyler Jamison, Ph.D., assistant professor, University of New Hampshire, and Anthony G. James Jr., Ph.D., CFLE, associate professor and director of Family Science Program, Miami University, each panelist identified his or her own social locations. Panelists then took turns answering a series of questions posed by the moderators, before taking questions from the audience.

Below are a just a few notable quotes from the panelists. Listen to the full session (#143) at, accessible to all conference attendees (in-person and live-streaming registrants). If you were unable to attend, you may still purchase access at a special reduced rate.

Adrienne Duke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University

Because I’m young, female, and Black, the way in which [my students] interact with me is very interesting. [They have] a sense of formality with other professors and a sense of informality with me. I get lots of personal questions about my life, about my hair, about the things I do on the weekend, which could speak to . . . a shared affinity, but it could also be how I appear to them and how that’s reflected back.

Veronica Barrios, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Family Science and Social Work, Miami University

The first thing I do, whatever course I’m in, is to first introduce my social location to my class . . . and then I follow this up with explaining intersectionality theory. I want [my class] to understand where I’m coming from and where I’m about to walk with them as we go through the course. Depending on their level of comfort, I will invite others to share their responses to [my social location]. As the course progresses, I invite my students to step into other people’s shoes. I want my students to be able to self-identify and to be able to acknowledge . . . [their] privilege and also experiences of oppression within themselves and with others.

Vanja Lazarevic, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Child and Family Development, San Diego State University

At the beginning of the semester we talk a lot about positionality. I invite [my students] to list some assumptions they have about me. How old do you think I am? Am I married? Do I have kids? . . . I try very hard to create a space and environment where people’s opinions are welcome. I really want to hear diverse opinions and diverse experiences. . . . Intersectionality can be difficult to grasp, but privilege seems to be easier. It’s a way to make people think [about] where they are coming from, and what that means for their experiences, and the experiences of people around them.

Manijeh Daneshpour, Ph.D., LMFT, Professor and Systemwide Director of Marriage and Family Therapy, Alliant International University in California

The way I view myself as a person (in terms of class, gender, power) really contradicts how I’m defined in this society. My father, who was a philosopher, believed that gender is a social construct. He would say feminism and equality of men and women only happens when women are highly educated and economically independent. I came to this country with the notion that there are no differences between men and women in terms of intelligence, what you can do, and what is possible.

Chang Su-Russell and Greg Brooks
Greg Brooks (left) listens as Chang Su-Russell (right) speaks during panel session.

Chang Su-Russell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Illinois State University

Because I lived in China for my first 23 years . . . I do [wonder] if I’m legitimate [to discuss U.S. racial issues] in front of my students. I had assumed [my students] would know more about racial issues and know the social historical problems related to race better than me. But when I ask [my students] about immigration policies . . . apparently, they didn’t know anything about them. [Students] were often shocked to learn [people immigrated to the U.S.] from Germany or Ireland. They thought immigrants came only from Mexico.

Greg Brooks Ph.D., LMFT, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Studies, Abilene Christian University

I worry about the notion of safe spaces [in the classroom] . . . in part because there’s so many layers between me and my students . . . that I have no idea whether they feel safe or not. I don’t know whether they feel comfortable or uncomfortable with our conversation . . . afraid, or sad and angry. I ask them, and sometimes they tell me, but I often just don’t know. So, I try not to promise that they’ll feel safe, but I want to have an environment where we can talk about anything and be respectful of each other.

The following morning during IDC’s annual breakfast meeting (open to all conference attendees), conversations that took place during that special session continued in roundtables. Each roundtable was invited to consider discussion questions pertaining to issues of inclusion, diversity, and social justice within NCFR. The breakfast was well attended. Several members of the NCFR Board of Directors were present, in addition to long-term members and first-time attendees.

I came to this country with the notion that there are no differences between men and women in terms of intelligence, what you can do, and what is possible.
- Manijeh Daneshpour

Lee Ann De Reus
Lee Ann De Reus (left) receives 2018 Social Justice Award

Finally, the IDC honored Lee Ann De Reus, Ph.D., as the 2018 recipient of the Social Justice Award for Contributions to Family Science. Dr. De Reus is an internationally recognized expert on gender, sexualized violence, and women’s rights. She is the executive director of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. Working on behalf of the survivors of domestic violence, the organization challenges unjust trial outcomes; provides training for mental health professionals, judges, and lawyers; and improves policies intended to promote safety. Dr. Reus is also the cofounder and chair of Panzi Foundation USA, a nonprofit that assists survivors of gender-based violence at Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The IDC welcomes suggestions for topics that should be addressed through organizational initiatives or through conference special sessions. Please submit them through our web form at We appreciate your suggestions and look forward to continuing our dialogue about future plans for these special sessions.