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Turning point shotRob Shorette, a third-year Ph.D. student in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education program at Michigan State University, is on the path to making an impact in education and social justice.

Shorette is currently exploring opportunities to pursue his passion for social justice in various contexts: higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, governmental entities, philanthropic organizations, etc.

HOPE had the opportunity to chat with Shorette about everything from the current research on the benefits of attending an HBCU to dealing with his father’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

HOPE: What are the benefits of diversity in education?
RS: I think it is still pretty easy to navigate your way through an educational experience without truly interacting with diversity in meaningful ways. The greatest benefit I have received from attending different types of institutions is the knowledge gained from getting to know people who are different from me. And I am not just referring to difference in physical appearance; I am referring to difference of all kinds – socioeconomic background, family experiences, geography, individual identity, culture, etc. Personally, I have grown in my understanding of the world and understanding of others. Professionally, I am more aware of the complexities that come along with leading and working with people from different backgrounds, and now truly comprehend the importance of context, sympathy, and diversity of perspective in the workplace.

HOPE: Do you think there is a benefit to attending a HBCU?
RS: Awesome people have been producing great research for decades now that speaks to the unique attributes of HBCUs. Plenty of research has revealed the benefits of attending an HBCU, including greater economic returns, nurturing environments that promote academic and personal development, and the higher rate at which HBCUs are producing black graduate students. Every institution has its shortcomings, but I am encouraged by the research that is finding satisfactory experiences for a variety of students at HBCUs, not just African-American students. Dr. Taryn Ozuna has done some great work focusing on Latino students’ sense of belonging at HBCUs in Texas, conversations with presidents and administrators of HBCUs reveal stories of non-African-American students expressing high levels of satisfaction with their HBCU experience, and responses to my interview with Dr. Marybeth Gasman (via social media and emails sent directly to me) exposed a population of white students whose experiences at their respective HBCUs mirrored my own. As President Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College said, “If all you see when you look at us is a school for black people, you miss what makes us special.”

HOPE:  What makes you a HopeDealer?
RS: I honestly think you would get a better answer to that question from someone who considers me a HopeDealer. I believe that my actions, and the subsequent outcomes of those actions, will determine whether I have lived up to the title of a HopeDealer. Certainly, I aspire to be a HopeDealer. In pursuit of that title, I stay committed to the development of young people and I maintain my passion for supporting those who have not had the fortunes and privileges that I have had. Translating these passions into actions means: helping students understand how to navigate the complicated system in which they must all operate; providing mentorship to men who are desperately in need of a positive male role model; giving others access to the resources that I have acquired over time; developing skills in young people that will translate across disciplines and allow them to pursue their dreams; advocating for those whose voices have been silenced; and, hopefully, inspiring people to be good to each other and to give back to their communities.

HOPE: What has been your greatest challenge thus far and how did you overcome?
RS: My greatest challenge has been dealing with my father’s multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in 2004. My father went from being a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and an active middle-aged man to being in a nursing home, unable to walk or perform daily functions, within the span of only a few years. It was difficult to deal with the reality that my father would need 24-hour care for the remainder of his life and that the dynamics of our relationship would be forever changed. It was through the support of my family and friends that I was able to overcome my initial fears, put the circumstance into perspective, and take a positive approach to dealing with the difficulties that come along with having a family member afflicted with such a destructive disease.

HOPE: What gives you HOPE?
RS: Working with young people gives me hope. Knowing that my generation has an opportunity to positively influence a group of young people into understanding the world differently and progressing toward a society full of love and acceptance, as opposed to tolerance and divisiveness…that gives me hope.

About Rob Shorette
Shorette received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Florida A&M University in 2007 and received his master’s degree in higher education administration and policy from The George Washington University in 2010. Professionally, he has worked in high schools, in student services at the university level, and with nonprofit organizations such as the Institute for Higher Education Policy and the Southern Education Foundation.

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