eXtension Catapults Specialist into Diversity Leadership Role

The eXtension Diversity and Inclusion Corps provided the confidence and motivation Mannering needed to go forward with the Unity luncheon, online modules, and related activities, instead of just thinking about it.

Christy Mannering’s farmhouse office in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware is “off the beaten path,” says Adam Thomas, CANR interim director of communications. “She actually only sees two to three people per day, and they’re the same people.” Mannering is a digital communications specialist and web developer, and her job requires her to sit at a desk behind a computer most of the day.

At the same time, Mannering is very passionate about working with people.  In fact, she and her son run a non-profit organization in her off-hours that feeds the homeless and provides additional help to those in need.  Mannering found a way to work differently by squaring her desire for more on-the-job people involvement with her work duties through the eXtension Diversity and Inclusion Issue Corps.

“When I saw the request for proposals, it piqued my interest,” she says.  “I’ve always been interested in why I behave as I do and why others act a certain way. You can’t do anything in this world completely alone, at least not very well. You need to be able to collaborate and work with others, especially if you are interested in service.”

Mannering reached out to the Office of Equity and Inclusion on her campus for help in putting her eXtension proposal together and for including benchmarks for measurable local impact. She submitted the proposal in December and cheered when it was approved in January 2017.  Not one to let grass grow under her feet, she involved colleagues in her college, in the Equity and Inclusion office, and others to plan the first-ever Unity Event in CANR.

The Unity luncheon, held in March, brought together 55 graduate students and faculty.  (Among other roles, Mannering is a grad student in public administration.)  The event featured an exercise in which participants were asked to wind strands of colorful yarn around pegs on a board labeled with such titles as “veteran,” “LGBTQ,” “employee,” “parent,” “immigrant,” etc.  The result was a work of art that the college dean keeps in a central area where people continue to add to the piece.

unity event wall chart - defining unity“The event showed everyone in the college that although you may have dissimilarities from others, you also have nuances that cross over.  It was a very successful event,” Thomas says.

Participants in the Unity luncheon also were given an opportunity to anonymously write on cards scenarios they had witnessed where people were harassed or treated inequitably.  Groups at tables then discussed the scenarios and came up with possible ways to deal with uncomfortable situations.  One participant in the post-event evaluation said: “It made me feel better to see how many people are against bigotry but are too afraid to speak up.  They’re intimidated, not apathetic.  If I took the initiative to defend someone, others might also be supportive.”

 “The way we live, the way we work, the way we present ourselves, our action and our inaction, can very much impact and shape the lives of the people around us. We need to be able to work differently so that we can ‘walk in each other’s shoes’ and not judge them.”

Mannering is taking her learning from her eXtension Diversity and Inclusion experiences a step further by creating online modules on emotional intelligence, which she sees as an antidote for bullying and harassment in the workplace.  She has created the first two modules and plans up to eight more.  (Mannering would value input from potential users to add to and improve the modules.) “Creating modules and researching this for the issue corps may be allowing me to provide some ‘aha moments’ for others,” Mannering says.

Thomas credits eXtension with giving Mannering the “confidence and motivation to go forward with the Unity luncheon, the online modules, and related activities, instead of just thinking about it.”  He adds that the college will be willing to give Mannering time to work on the modules because “Christy is one of those people who can multitask until the cows come home, and a lot of people could benefit from her work.”

small group activity at the unity luncheonIn the meantime, Mannering is less lonely in her remote office.  The eXtension Diversity & Inclusion experience provided Mannering with on-campus visibility that she was previously lacking: “I was invited to participate in a diversity summit on campus, which I wouldn’t even have known about previously.  I’ve met people from other parts of campus, and I’m still emailing with friends I met at the Unity luncheon. It’s given me a lot of hope; many other people at the university want things to improve, too. It’s opened my eyes to a lot, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” Mannering says.

“We’re all human, and we all deserve to be treated humanely.”

For more information, contact Mannering at 302-831-7217 or cmanneri@udel.edu