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August 10, 2023

A Journey of Perspective: Trading Places and Privilege Walk

By Nicholas Cupo
Nick Cupo Author: Nicholas Cupo

The certificate of inclusive leadership program has been a transformative experience, challenging me to examine my own biases, assumptions, and privileges. Two modules, in particular, have left a profound impact on my understanding of inclusion and equity: "Trading Places" and "Privilege Walk." In this essay, I will reflect on these modules and discuss how they have shaped my perspective, both personally and professionally. Through simulating different perspectives and recognizing the privileges I possess, I have gained a deeper awareness of the importance of overcoming biases and using privilege responsibly.

The "Trading Places" module encouraged participants to step into the shoes of someone with different biases and experiences. One personal experience that comes to mind is when I took on the role of a person with a disability. I had the opportunity to do this on campus at UT Austin with Texas Wranglers, a student organization group. For the entirety of the day, we had to use a wheelchair to get around and as I navigated my day in a wheelchair, I encountered physical barriers that I had never considered before. I struggled to access buildings, encountered stares from strangers, and felt the frustration of exclusion. This experience allowed me to recognize the daily challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and sparked a strong desire to advocate for accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of life.

Another simulated experience in the module involved trading places with a person from a different cultural background. This role was not as intentional as my previous experience stated, but I was still in a position that I am not used to being in. While I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I found myself immersed in a community with traditions and customs unfamiliar to me. The lifestyle, food, day-to-day habits, and everything else was so different to me. However, through this unique experience, I gained a profound appreciation for the richness of diversity and the importance of cultural sensitivity. It highlighted the need to embrace different perspectives and celebrate the contributions of all individuals, irrespective of their cultural background.

Furthermore, the "Privilege Walk" module prompted participants to reflect on their own privileges and the ways in which they shape our lives. In one instance during the exercise, I took a step forward while reflecting on the privilege of having a stable home environment. I recalled the support and love I received from my family, which laid a foundation for my personal and professional growth. This experience deepened my understanding of the role that upbringing and familial support play in shaping opportunities. On the other hand, I also took steps back during the privilege walk exercise. As I reflected on my educational opportunities, I realized that not everyone has equal access to quality education. This realization fueled my commitment to support educational initiatives that bridge the opportunity gap and provide equitable learning experiences for all.

The learnings from these modules have had a significant impact on both my personal and professional life. Personally, I have become more conscious of my own biases and the importance of constantly challenging them. This awareness has translated into more inclusive conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, as I strive to create spaces where diverse perspectives are respected and valued. Furthermore, inspired by the privilege walk module, I initiated discussions with my family and close friends about the importance of equal educational opportunities. Since then, we have donated to various local schools around New York to provide mentorship programs and scholarships, aiming to empower underprivileged students to access higher education and pursue their dreams. These actions align with my commitment to using my privileges responsibly and proactively trying to create a better environment for everyone.

In conclusion, the impactful "Trading Places" and "Privilege Walk" modules have not only broadened my understanding but also ingrained in me a profound sense of duty to drive meaningful change. As I continue on my path as an inclusive leader, these invaluable lessons will remain at the core of my endeavors, as I strive to create a world where every individual is valued, respected, and empowered to thrive. These modules have deepl shaped my perspective on inclusion and equity, serving as catalysts for personal growth and transformation. Through these transformative experiences, I have come to appreciate the criticality of self-awareness, empathy, and the weight of responsibility in fostering an inclusive environment. By courageously confronting our biases, acknowledging our privileges, and taking purposeful actions, we can actively contribute to the construction of a more equitable society.

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