When we come to college, there is always a nagging fear that we might not fit in, or that we won’t like our major, the other students, or our professors. A fear that people might not like us for whatever reason—who we are, what we look like, our interests—permeates our beginnings.
Even though many students experience this feeling at Penn, Wharton specifically has a culture in which it can feel like the typically successful student has already been predetermined. Because so many students feel like they don’t belong in Wharton, three Wharton students—Javion Joyner (W ’22), Nia Robinson (W ’22), and current DP columnist Surayya Walters (W ’22)—joined the Wharton Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Group (WEDIG) with the vision of creating a more inclusive Wharton community.
Javion, a former co–chair of WEDIG, said that WEDIG’s mission is to improve the satisfaction of groups who have been historically underrepresented, haven't always felt included, or haven't always felt that they belonged in Wharton. WEDIG is “a group that tries to bridge the gaps across various underrepresented categories”—one that wants “to help students find the connection and find the intersectionality between their identity … and the problems that all sorts of groups are facing,” Javion says.
One of WEDIG’s initiatives is the recent launch of their podcast, MOSAIC, on March 12. The podcast, created by Javion, Nia, and Surayya, focuses on sharing and championing stories about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) from Wharton students. Surayya, the current co–chair of WEDIG, says that the podcast is “the chance to really champion perspectives that I think the Wharton environment has neglected ... WEDIG is for everyone—we want this to really be everyone’s podcast where they see themselves represented.”
The podcast, which Javion and Nia say was Surraya's idea, began with the problem of community engagement in a virtual space. “Having community forums is kind of an impossible feat right now, just because of Zoom fatigue, and people just don’t want to log on, and show their face, and engage,” says Surraya. So, she looked to something more approachable and asynchronous: a podcast. Surayya drew inspiration from the Black Student Forum and another podcast, Our Wharton, started by the Wharton Graduate Association (WGA). The podcast, founded by the former president of WGA, Nicolette Omoile Gangitano (WG ’19), inspired her.
“[WGA] had a Black female president that year, and she spearheaded that initiative and led it, and I was really inspired by her and her work. I was saying, 'Wow, we should step into that realm as well,'” says Surayya. “We should tell the stories not only from WEDIG, but the entire Wharton community.”
Surayya, who says she herself felt like she didn’t belong in Wharton, wants the podcast to be a space where all people feel represented. “Coming into Wharton, I really didn’t feel like I fit in. I’m one of the creative types in the school, and then I’m also a woman of color. So, [Wharton’s] not really representative of my demographic,” she said. “I think that this is what the podcast is going to touch on—intersectionality [is] not just a race and gender thing, but also ... more non–traditional.” In Javion, Nia, and Walter’s vision, there is a place for every student in Wharton no matter who they are.
The three want to emphasize that there is no one–size–fits–all version of a successful student at Wharton and that, by sharing DEI stories, they are showing that people of all different types can be comfortable and successful in Wharton. “You don’t have to be the stereotypical Whartonite. You don’t have to be the straight, white, cis–gendered finance bro. There is a whole spectrum of people who exist here and are successful here. If we can really show people that these individual stories exist, then we can make students here right now and in future generations feel like this is a place where they can belong—that they can be comfortable in their own skin,” says Javion.
The podcast’s first episodes are hosted by Javion and Nia, with Surayya as the producer, and feature WEDIG’s founding members as well as an interview with members from Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Consulting, one of the first DEI student–led organizations in Wharton and at Penn. Listen to MOSAIC at these links:
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/id1556320676
Podcast home: https://www.thedp.com/section/podcasts