The Charger Blog

Myatt Center Director Encourages All Chargers to Be Part of Promoting an Inclusive University Community

Carrie Robinson, M.S., a first-generation college student, is passionate about fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University. She is excited to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Myatt Center this month and she looks forward to continuing its mission of ensuring that all students feel supported and a sense of belonging.

November 5, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Carrie Robinson, M.S.
Carrie Robinson, M.S., director for the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

After Carrie Robinson, M.S. began her career in higher education, her school opened an area for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but it was not staffed. She began volunteering her time in the space, balancing her service with her work and her studies. For Robinson, it was critical that members of the LGBTQ+ community felt supported.

Carrie Robinson, posing with her wife Justine, and their son Logan.
Carrie Robinson, her wife Justine, and their son Logan.

Her involvement helped inspire a career focused on fostering diversity and inclusion. She brought her dedication and experience to Charger Nation earlier this year, as director for the University’s Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

After dedicating her first months at the University to listening to students, faculty, and staff to learn how the Myatt Center can best serve the University community, Robinson has been using the data she has – from the University’s campus climate survey, for example – to take a proactive and strategic approach to enhancing the Myatt Center’s mission. She is committed to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) for all Chargers.

“The students at the University are great,” she said. “What I love the most about doing this work and doing it here is that there’s a commitment from faculty and staff to engage with me in fostering DEIB. In order for us to create an inclusive and belonging community – not just for students but for faculty and staff as well – everyone needs to have a part. I haven’t felt like I’m on my own island doing the work, since there are a lot of people who are also involved.”

‘I want to use my journey to help’

Before joining the University community, Robinson served as the inaugural director of LGBTQ+ life at Trinity College. She has also served as associate director of the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs as well as an area coordinator for the Service for Justice Residential College Program at Fairfield University.

Throughout her career, Robinson has launched initiatives that support marginalized, LGBTQ+, and first-generation students, and she has dedicated her career to addressing racial and social justice issues. Her own journey began while growing up in a town that, she says, was not very diverse, and that has inspired her dedication to self-education and self-reflection. She hopes to use her experience to help educate others.

“This has meant entering into difficult dialogues and learning how to use my voice for those who don’t have a seat at the table,” she explains. “I want to use my journey to help and advocate for others. I try to instill that in students and to inspire those who might not think they have a place in diversity work or who don’t see themselves in the Myatt Center.”

‘Providing the support and information that first-generation students need’

Robinson, who identifies as a first-generation student, is committed to supporting the approximately 40 percent of University of New Haven students who are the first in their family to go to college. The Myatt Center offers programming to provide guidance and support for first-generation students, including special sessions at orientation for incoming students, and the center has expanded the role of its diversity peer educators.

The University is celebrating First-Generation Celebration Day on November 8, the date of a national celebration created in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education and Center for First-Generation of Success. Robinson is looking forward to being a part of the celebration, which will connect first-generation students, staff, and faculty and enable them to share their experiences while fostering community and a sense of belonging.

“I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a first-generation student until after I had graduated,” she said. “There are so many intersections of identity that rest in that 40 percent of our student population. There are so many first-gen students who feel really disconnected from their family unit because they just don’t know what students are experiencing or understand the demands of being in college, so we’ve been focused on providing the support and information that first-generation students need.”

‘I want students to see themselves in our space’

The Myatt Center is also offering a mentoring program to help first-year students feel welcome and supported. Students apply the summer before their first semester and are then paired with a diversity peer educator and with a faculty, staff, or alumni mentor, whom they meet with regularly. Robinson, who has been involved with similar programs at other institutions, says students and mentors are paired strategically based on their needs and identities.

Carrie Robinson smiles side by side with her family.
Carrie Robinson enjoying some time with her family.

“Students are more likely to stay in college when they feel connected – not just to an institution, but to other people,” she said. “Sometimes faculty and staff faced the same challenges as students, and this allows them to relate to each other. It’s another layer of support. It’s about helping underrepresented students to feel connected to our institution.”

Eager to include faculty and staff in the Myatt Center’s DEIB initiatives, Robinson has been working closely with colleagues from across the University to create development opportunities and to foster conversations. The Myatt Center’s “Courageous Conversations” events this semester are focused on faculty and staff development. Faculty have also regularly held office hours in the Myatt Center to connect with students.

Looking forward to celebrating the five-year anniversary of the establishment of the Myatt Center this month, Robinson endeavors to continue using the space to help students feel more connected to everything the University has to offer. She has been working with offices and departments across campus – including the Math Zone, the One Stop Shop, and Counseling and Psychological Services – to bring them into the Myatt Center to enable students to become familiar with what they have to offer and to feel more comfortable using their services. She wants all students to feel a sense of belonging at the Myatt Center.

“We need to expand what we see as diversity,” she said. “We sometimes define ‘diverse’ as pertaining to a person’s skin color because we can see that. I want students to see themselves in our space, to feel like they can come to the Myatt Center, go to programming, and get involved in organizations. We want to ensure that all students, regardless of their identity, feel that they have a place here.”