HUMANS OF THE U: NEELAM CHAND

“As I reflect on my work at the U over the past several years, I think about the messages that have had a profound impact on me, both positive and negative. And for every negative message, there was a voice of resistance which has shaped my work in social justice today.

I remember my experiences as an undergrad student at the U and being excited about a program only to be told by the counselor that I was not cut out for the program. He said the program was highly technical and far too complicated for me. An assumption he made without looking at my academic record or area of interest. I remember an instant feeling of isolation. Like I was here on false pretenses. And this is the message that stuck with me throughout my college career. And what struck me most is how often these types of experiences happen on our campus, especially with students who are underrepresented.  

So, after graduation, it was important for me to make my way back to the U and connect with the students, staff and faculty that are doing the work of social change on our campus. The work of amplifying powerful messages that positively change our campus’ narrative. I felt that my experience, along with the experience of many underrepresented students on campus, should not be the norm. And messages of not belonging should not be perpetuated.

Although this work is rewarding, it’s also challenging. It’s a challenge to navigate spaces where people may not understand social justice work or understand the importance of diversity. To have to conjure up the energy and convince people that this is important is one thing, but to have to come to the realization that some people find this work meaningless is another.  

There’s a lot going on around us locally and nationally, and with that, I encourage our campus community doing work around social justice, to take time to yourselves and truly pay attention to your health. Often times we feel helpless or alternatively carry the burden of change on our shoulders. It’s draining. It takes a mental and physical toll. This work requires a collective effort, a message I remind myself daily.”

— Neelam Chand, marketing director, Office for Equity and Diversity and account executive, University Marketing and Communications


We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.