When Ruby Arora started her undergraduate career at Washington University she knew she wanted to be involved in student government. Unsure if she wanted to run for Senate or Treasury, Arora found that the Diversity Affairs Council (DAC) — a group she stumbled upon at the fall activities fair — offered her a blend of both groups along with the chance to work alongside a “great group of people.”
DAC acts as a resource for students and student groups by organizing diversity programming and training that “empower students to take a proactive role in diversity-related issues.”
“I want to work to find where that gap is happening and figure out how to address it.”
After joining, she eventually worked her way up to the cabinet where she served as director of diversity training. During her time in that role, DAC expanded to include an initiative called Everyone’s Welcome, a fund that encourages collaboration between student groups that may not usually collaborate. She also worked on creating and enhancing programs that allow for discussion on topics related to diversity.
Next year, Arora will serve as chair of the Diversity Affairs Council, a role that will offer her the chance to expand programming and public relations efforts.
“I think a lot of people are aware of who we are, but are not aware of what we do. Through programming and PR, we want to get our name, our mission and what we actually do out there a little better,” Arora said. “This year will be slightly different because of the debate. I think a lot of our first semester will be taken up by being reactive to the atmosphere on campus and things occurring on campus.”
Arora also would like to see more representation of the student body in Student Union. “I want to work to find where that gap is happening and figure out how to address it,” she said.
As the incoming chair of DAC, Arora recently was invited to be part of the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. The commission discusses “staff diversity, diversity training, university-wide engagement and dialogue, monitoring and reporting progress, recognizing leadership and impact in achieving diversity, and the recommendation to explore the possibility of a race and social justice institute.” Last summer the steering committee on diversity and inclusion created a list of proposals that the commission will now begin to move forward with.
Arora said it initially felt intimidating to be a student voice in a room full of administrators and faculty members from across the university. It took her time to find moments to jump into the conversation and offer her perspective.
“A lot of times these talks are about students, but it loses a personal touch. It’s valuable to have that student voice there. This university is doing a lot around diversity and inclusion, but the students aren’t always aware of it because it’s happening behind closed doors among administrators,” Arora said. “Another reason it’s helpful to have students on these committees is so students know what’s happening and what’s changing. We might not see it everyday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
In addition to these roles, Arora is also a residential advisor in Wheeler House, a student advisor in the College of Arts & Sciences and a peer health educator. She is a junior majoring in biology and political science with a minor in anthropology, and she hopes to go on to medical school.
“One of the problems with the word diversity is that it has become a word that people just throw around. Diversity and inclusion are thrown around everywhere and they lose their meaning.”
“I’m pre-med, so when I came here I was worried about a really intense, competitive culture, but that’s not what I’ve experienced at all,” Arora said of her experience at WashU. “The people here are really passionate about whatever they’re studying or whatever they’re involved in on campus.”
As she enters the second half of her undergraduate career at WashU, Arora hopes she is leaving a legacy of having pursued the things she cares about most rather than “going with the flow.” Through her many leadership roles on campus, Arora will continue to help foster an inclusive environment on campus.
“One of the problems with the word diversity is that it has become a word that people just throw around. Diversity and inclusion are thrown around everywhere and they lose their meaning,” Arora said. “These words mean different things to everyone. To me, fostering a diverse and inclusive environment on our campus means that people have the ability to speak about what they care about without fear of being ostracized and that they have the ability to be whoever they want to be and say whatever they want to say without fear of being put down because of who they are or what they feel about something.”