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Meet STEPS’ Diversity Coordinator, Kailyn Harris-Gilliam!

Kailyn Gilliam
STEPS' new diversity coordinator, Kailyn Harris-Gilliam.

The STEPS team is thrilled to welcome Kailyn Harris-Gilliam to our team as our diversity coordinator. This role is an important part of our STEPS mission to recruit, train, and graduate diverse cohorts of intersectional researchers. In this story, you’ll learn more about her and her early plans for this role in STEPS. 

Harris’ background

Harris brings an exciting combination of knowledge and experience to STEPS. She comes to us from East Carolina University, where she was Program Specialist in Diversity and Inclusion Education and Training within the Office for Equity and Diversity. In this role, she was responsible for leading educational outreach opportunities related to diversity and inclusion for primarily faculty and staff, and occasionally for students. She says this role taught her how to infuse cultural competency, courageous conversations, and equity-based strategies across disciplines, careers, and people. 

Before her work at ECU, Harris attended James Madison University in Virginia, where she received degrees in English and Teaching, Secondary Education. Her interest in equity in education was sparked during her teaching preparation courses at JMU. After graduation, Harris was inspired to continue her education and earn a certification in Culturally-Responsive and Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy. As a result of her education and experience, she says she has developed a personal philosophy that diversity and inclusion work is for everyone, which is why she is continuously inspired to do this work. 

Harris was inspired to apply for the diversity coordinator role in STEPS because of her interest in working to recruit and retain diverse talent in academic spaces, a critical function for this role. She looks forward also to expanding the retention efforts at STEPS to help create an inclusive environment, where people want to stay and are encouraged to reach their full potential. 

STEP-ping into the role

What are her plans for her first year at STEPS? Harris’ focus is to help co-create a stronger culture of inclusion and belonging. She says, “I want to create an environment where mutual respect, cultural competency, and inclusive strategies are essential to foster productive conversations and collaboration – and that is something that I hope to help sustain and expand in my first year.” To do this, she plans on first learning more about the different people within STEPS and allow people to view her as a resource. Harris emphasizes, “I want everyone, especially scholars, to know that I am here to listen to them and to advocate for them on any issues, not just those related to diversity and inclusion.” 

What is she looking forward to most in the role? “Meeting and working with all of the scholars at each STEPS institution!” Harris enjoys working with students at all levels, and is excited to collaborate with the scholars to encourage programming that is directly tailored to their needs, academically, professionally, and personally. 

Harris welcomes all scholars to set up a time to meet with her if they’d like. Scholars can sign up for a time on her Calendly account. You can meet with her, for any reason, to discuss your STEPS experiences or privately report concerns. 

Fun facts about Kailyn Harris-Gilliam

Get to know our new diversity coordinator! Here are a few fun facts about Kailyn Harris-Gilliam: 

  • I have a dog named Harley. 
  • I was a middle school teacher for 5 years, and I won Teacher of the Year during my time teaching.
  • I love trying new things, especially new restaurants. I am hoping to start a new food blog soon where I visit new restaurants, and showcase the food with ratings. So, if anyone has any suggestions on restaurants that I must try, please send them my way!
Harry the dog
Harris’ dog, Harley. Photo courtesy Kailyn Harris-Gilliam.

Please join us in welcoming Kailyn to STEPS!