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Humans of the U: Sheena McFarland

“In a moment like this, it’s really fun to get to actually see transformation happen.”

“I’m always looking for ways that we can create a student-ready campus rather than expecting students to come to campus ready. That often means finding areas where we can make systemic changes and make our campus a more welcoming place for students from all backgrounds.

As a woman of color growing up in Utah, I have faced discrimination in plenty of situations, so equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work has always been important to me. After I graduated from the U, I worked for The Salt Lake Tribune for a decade as a reporter and editor. I covered topics such as immigration and LGBTQ rights, among many others.

I’ve been at the U since January of 2015, and I’ve been able to serve on the MLK Week planning committee and have gotten to help the Eccles School in its EDI work. I’ve been really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish because it’s been much more than just performative. It is really at the center of our conversations as we work on how to make a more welcoming environment for our students and ensure people feel a sense of belonging and that they are honored for their differences.

About a year ago, I found out that some international applicants to our master’s programs were being asked to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) even though they have only ever spoken English in their life. I started talking to colleagues who were also frustrated by this and had gone different routes to try to change the policy but hadn’t been successful, and as a group we started getting traction. I talked about it with then Dean Taylor Randall and by October of this year, we had changed the policy to be much more inclusive and reduce that barrier for many of our applicants.

In a moment like this, it’s really fun to get to actually see transformation happen. On my team, we have this idea that we are all like-hearted but not necessarily like-minded. We love higher education because of the transformational power of education, but sometimes that change happens really slowly. There is still much work to be done, but it’s been great to see people from across campus coming together to open doors for students and collectively create a more inclusive and welcoming space for our community.”

—Sheena McFarland, marketing and communications director and adjunct instructor, David Eccles School of Business