We recently spoke to Katie Marshall, program specialist for the Office of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity in Penn State Outreach and Online Education, about her role and how she’s making an impact for Women’s History Month and every month. Here’s our chat:
Tell me about your role with Penn State Outreach.
One of the main purposes of the Office of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity is to help Penn State Outreach and Online Education (OOE) be a place that is inclusive and where people feel a sense of belonging. This includes students we interact with as well as the employees.
How does your work impact the communities within Penn State Outreach?
I really see my role as a support for the various offices and groups in OOE. Outreach really does such a vast array of things and serves so many communities in a variety of ways. I assist them in exploring ways that they are already reaching their goals related to inclusion and equity as well as areas they may be able to be more intentional as they do their work serving their communities.
How do you hope to see your position grow during your time with Penn State?
There are already a lot of good things happening and people interested in equity and inclusion within Outreach. My hope is that momentum continues and builds over time. Outreach has such a far-reaching impact, so there is opportunity there to have a significant influence by us being more intentional around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).
What about your work makes you most proud?
I am excited that I am able to use various experiences from my career within this role. I am a licensed professional counselor by trade, and while I don’t currently work with clients, I definitely use those skill sets daily in this work. Becoming more intentional about DEIB does take reflection and exploration over time, and that is work I am committed to do within myself and as I walk alongside others as we journey through that together. I am also able to draw upon my experience with founding and overseeing Stand for State, Penn State’s bystander intervention program, for five years. I have subject matter expertise around DEIB, mental health, wellness, sexual and relationship violence prevention, behavior change campaigns, and social impact strategy. It is energizing to apply a variety of my knowledge areas into this role.
What advice would you offer to individuals who are interested in making a greater impact in their respective fields?
There are whole bodies of research about how to create positive change both on a personal level and at the community level. I would suggest doing a deeper dive into resources out there if someone has an interest in this. To really simplify my philosophy, I would say that regardless of whether you are focusing on making individual changes within yourself or at a large scale, I think it comes down to making small choices consistently over time, setting up the environment to accommodate the change, and being iterative as you go. That’s not glamorous, it can even feel sort of dull or boring at times, and takes commitment. In my experience those are the ingredients that have been a helpful foundation to creating change. Sometimes there are flashy and fun things that move something along, but long-term, it comes down to day-to-day commitment.
I would also encourage folks to follow their curiosity rather than just focusing on their passion. Passion is important, but reframing to be led by curiosity can help the process be more expansive and collaborative, which is necessary for broad impact. For example, when I was just getting started with the bystander intervention program years ago, I got really curious about if this type of programming was happening in other parts of campus and what folks were doing already around this topic, so I asked them. People shared their experiences and became very interested in working together to create something that would benefit the whole campus. What initially was something I thought would be pretty small-scale morphed into a University-wide initiative because folks resonated with the effort, were co-contributors to build it, and saw themselves within the story, which led to them sharing the stories with others and it spread. The beauty of working for greater impact is that, inherently, it can’t happen alone.