Lecture aims to help diversify Marshall community


Sadie Helmick

Virginia Valian lecturing to students, faculty and staff during the 5 p.m. session on Monday, Sept. 10 in the Shawkey Dining Room. Valian tailored the session to Marshall’s campus, and she gave advice on how students can utilize their resources to succeed.

Virginia Valian, a Hunter College psychology professor and gender expert, lectured students, staff and faculty 2 p.m. Sept. 10, in the Shawkey Dining Room. This was one of five sessions Monday sponsored by the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. Valian tailored the session to Marshall University students, and she gave advice on how students can utilize their resources to succeed.

Valian teaches and advises at a small New York City constituent college. She said both the demographics of students she teaches and the faculty she works with are very diverse, whereas Marshall still has a long way to go in terms of diversifying their faculty and student body.

“This campus isn’t terribly diverse,” Valian said. “Marshall’s goals here are a bit of a challenge. West Virginia isn’t a very diverse state, so it’s a bit of a challenge to diversify and increase gender equity.”

Valian was invited to Marshall by President Jerry Gilbert to speak on how the campus can overcome the obstacle of diversification. Valian used her background to help the faculty utilize tools to help increase diversity, as well as give students professional tools to help them make the most of their education.

Valian gave examples of strategies for student success, including the need for constructive rather than destructive criticism. Valian also said students should take advantage of the career expos and academic workshops offered on Marshall’s campus.

“Be confident. Ask questions. Be comfortable taking up space,” she said. 

Students took part in the open discussion. Lydia Brown, a sophomore dietetics major, said she had a reason why many students may not take advantage of events on campus.

“There seems to be a disconnect between students and events on campus,” Brown said. “If it seems like something that won’t benefit people in the short term, a lot of people don’t find that valuable.”

Valian said students should take the initiative to start their own workshops or to directly suggest ways to improve the workshops and events that happen on campus.

“The biggest challenge of being a student is that you don’t yet know what you need to know,” Valian said. “Analyze these things and use your resources, use your mentors.”

Valian’s ideas were directed toward young women who are trying to make names for themselves in the professional field, and she said her advice for young female students trying to make their ways in their respective fields is to make their competence clear and to be confident in what they do.

“Realize that you won’t get all the admiration you deserve, but strive to achieve that,” Valian said. “Adopt a friendly yet neutral stance with colleagues and make your presence and your skills known when possible.”

Hannah Graham can be reached at [email protected].