Alumni join in on the IDEAL conversation
“I think that all Laurentians need to be involved in the future of our beloved alma mater,” says Artūrs Saburovs ’10, a career diplomat currently serving at the Embassy of Latvia in London, and one of six lead volunteers in St. Lawrence’s IDEAL initiative.
IDEAL—Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Across Laurentians—is just one of the many efforts that have emerged since the 2015 adoption of the University’s Statement on Diversity. Spearheaded by the Office of Laurentian Engagement in partnership with the Office of the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, the goal is to expand the reach of alumni networks in meaningful and more nuanced ways by recognizing the challenges of students of color, the LGBTQ+, and international students studying at St. Lawrence. These volunteers are now involved in reimagining Laurentian events, networking opportunities, and mentoring programs to support students on campus as well as alumni across the country.
Along with Saburovs, the IDEAL volunteers represent a diverse and impressive collection of young alumni including Katie Green ’13, a senior associate for the Health Care Transformation Task Force; Jennifer Grygiel ’01, assistant professor of communications (social media) & magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University; Ashley Jeffress Ladd ’13, program manager for Women@HubSpot; Brandon Studler ’17, who currently works with at-risk and homeless youth in a residential program in Vermont; and Sajana Blank ’08, a Leadership Annual Giving Officer at Fordham University who will be moving on to chair of the Alumni Executive Council’s newly formed Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
The IDEAL volunteers understand the enormity of addressing inequity, prejudice, and racism in higher education by having experienced the strain placed on marginalized communities at St. Lawrence firsthand.
“Among St. Lawrence students and alumni, those of any minority status—be it color, culture, religion, sexuality and gender identity, or international status—remain in a minority,” says Saburovs, “and often, so do their voices.”
“There are historic reasons for this,” says Saburovs, “but we must not be bound by the past.”
IDEAL is one way to bring more voices to the table on all facets of the institution’s planning and programming. For Saburovs, continuing to sideline these voices and individuals is not only against Laurentian values, but it is also a lost opportunity to maximize the talents and potential of St. Lawrence. He believes that all Laurentians come with expertise enriched by different perspectives, as well as the strength, creativity, and leadership skills that add value and insight in identifying 21st-century solutions to building more inclusive communities in more interesting and innovative ways.
But the IDEAL volunteers also recognized that the work is bigger than any single program or initiative and that the burden must shift to a comprehensive investment across the entire Laurentian landscape to live up to the St. Lawrence mission and values for all students and alumni.
“St. Lawrence will be what we will all make of it,” says Saburovs, who has already seen progress since graduating a decade ago. Although the changes are encouraging, Saburovs believes more action is necessary. “We want St. Lawrence to reflect our best selves and our values. Respect for diversity is a long-standing value of St. Lawrence, and for me, values mean actions and our actions reflect our values.”