Since the spring, the School of Social Work has been working on a new strategic plan, which includes addressing diversity, equity and inclusion issues. The school appointed Jandel Crutchfield as its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion director in September.
Crutchfield, School of Social Work assistant professor, focuses on teaching racial justice issues in economics, education and health. She is well known for her passion and initiative to create social justice, she said.
She primarily teaches students who plan to work in schools with a focus on advocacy.
“Universities are not just situated in communities to serve those within their walls, or within their boundaries,” Crutchfield said. “A lot of the work is trying to make our old climate within the School of Social Work even more inclusive.”
She said she wants to make sure that people feel represented and their identities are seen within the school.
Before starting college, she spent her time working with students in summer camps, including being a part of a team that helps special needs individuals.
She earned her doctorate at LSU and studied equity in schools. She found the Louisiana school districts dealt with certain issues haphazardly, such as the state limiting control of schools who didn’t meet standardized testing scores and standards.
This got her interested in giving a voice to the students that were left unheard, so she pursued a degree in social work.
“Social work is about justice,” she said. “Educational justice, in particular, was the focus of my studying, so I’ve been commit- ted to that.”
Holding the profession dear to her heart, Crutchfield hopes students leave UTA and approach issues with humanity and lead with dignity.
As students come into the classroom with their lived experiences, Crutchfield could introduce them to new ways of thinking.
With the new position, Crutchfield continues to grow from those around her, including students and faculty.
“I plan to lean heavily on the faculty and their expertise and the staff as well, to do a lot of great things in our community,” she said.
Relius Johnson, Multicultural Affairs assistant director, saw Crutchfield’s involvement firsthand through organizing events. He worked with her to advocate for Black Lives Matter, and to promote Women’s History Month and Black History Month.
He sees Crutchfield’s position as an important step for the School of Social Work to advocate for all students, he said.
“Crutchfield has been committed to this work before anybody was trying to do anything,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, she was having those conversations, putting on programs, as well as, she has a true commitment to equity and inclusion work. It’s not something where she’s just doing this for show.”
As the college introduced this new role, Kiva Harper, School of Social Work associate professor of practice, said it’s important to have an individual dedicated to organizing practices and policies to create an inclusive community within the college that embraces diversity.
“One of the core values of our profession is social justice,” Harper said. “You can’t talk about social justice or advocate for social justice without there being diverse people at the table to do so. That is something we do anyway. The importance of Dr. Crutchfield in this position, that gives us an opportunity to speak, to pay even closer attention to this effort in ensuring that we are aligned with these initiatives, as well as the initiatives at the university.”
Harper said Crutchfield is a perfect fit for the role because of her leadership and positive energy. She hopes to see other colleges follow suit and do the same, she said.
Crutchfield plans to increase the college’s effort to be more inclusive, giving people a place to belong and let them be comfortable being themselves, she said.
As she settles in her role, she feels a warm welcome from her community.
“The outpouring support for the position and for the work has been fantastic, so I really have appreciated everybody, and saying ‘we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help and support you how we can,” Crutchfield said.