It is hard to believe we are in the final chapter of 2021. I know there are many tasks and stressors this month, so I’ll keep my column brief. It has been a privilege to share with you a few principles and practices for developing and maintaining inclusive cultures as well as increasing our knowledge about histories and communities this year.

As we enter December, my hope is we will apply these principles in remembering to honor the diverse range of beliefs and traditions in what we consider a “holiday season” in the U.S.

While many enjoy the festivities associated with the dominant cultural celebrations, it can also create pressure and discomfort for some folks. There is no need to ban all parties or décor or worry about what to say to colleagues as you leave for time off.

Instead, here are several things to keep in mind in order to create an environment that is welcoming to everyone:

  • Keep everything optional: there are many reasons why someone may not wish to participate in a potluck, gift exchange or other celebratory event. Ensuring everyone knows these are voluntary (and really meaning it) is a great way to allow people a choice in their participation.
  • Diversify your decorations: Christmas colors and items may be easy to find in December but there are plenty of ways to add in other elements that honor other holidays or the winter season (even in Florida).
  • Consider floating holidays: In higher education, our time off is set in particular ways, but for offices and organizations with more flexibility, including floating holidays as part of your benefits offers employees a way to ensure they have time for the important dates in their faiths, families and communities.
  • Receive feedback: Don’t forget to check in with the people you work and learn with. It is easy to get caught up in planning without taking time for feedback but asking what would be comfortable and meaningful for everyone is always a good practice.
  • Show grace: I’ve lost track of how often I’ve included this in my tips, but it remains an important theme in all equity and inclusion efforts. Very few people are not tired and stressed out in some way right now. If we can remember to show each other as much care, compassion and respect as possible, this will go a long way.

As we look toward a new year, I would like to wish everyone a season that includes peace and rejuvenation!


This article was written by Jennifer Sandoval, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Inclusive Culture. She can be contacted at Edited by Iulia Popescu.

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