Phuong Nguyen —
The Rambler: Could you share with us about your college experience?
Dr. Justin Mallett: Sure! I got my undergraduate degree from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point in Communications with emphasis in Public Relations and minor in coaching. I went to grad school right after graduation. I got my Master of Arts Degree in Communication as well. After that, I worked in college admissions for five years, while there I decided to go to school to get my PhD degree. I graduated with my doctoral degree in Educational Leadership in 2012.
The Rambler: What were some factors that led you to this career path?
Dr. Justin Mallett: Probably the biggest factor was my mentor Ron Strege…..The work that he did with minority and international students to help them achieve the goal of graduation and make a better life for themselves was something that really influenced me and encouraged me to get involved in Multicultural Affairs.
The Rambler: Could you give us a specific example of an advice that made you realize what you wanted to do?
Dr. Justin Mallett: It was after my first semester freshman year. I had an accumulative GPA at that time of 2.12. I lost one of the scholarships that basically covered my out-of-state tuition. No one had told me that I lost that scholarship. One day during my basketball practice, Ron came over to the gym, called me out of practice and told me I had lost the scholarship. And he worked with me to find ways to help me get back to school. And when he did that, it showed me that he cared enough about me as an individual, “hey I am gonna take time to make sure you know what’s going on.” From that, he ended up giving me another scholarship for minority students. I ended up working at the Multicultural Center on campus, which started the whole process of me getting into Multicultural Affairs.
The Rambler: Jacksonville is not really a diverse area, what do you think are the impacts it has on the campus?
Dr. Justin Mallett: It doesn’t expose the students to domestic diversity. It’s my opinion that for the college students that are here, we have to incorporate not just Jacksonville but the towns around Jacksonville to try to promote Diversity.
The Rambler: Are there challenges that students of minorities and international background face when they go to a school like this?
Dr. Mallett: Believe it or not, international students and domestic minority students, they face the same challenges. Our international students have to adapt to new language, customs, and things like that. A lot of our domestic minority students come from single, low-income families where they have always been told “No, no, no. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t. You won’t, you won’t, you won’t.” We have to turn around and change that perception and say “you can, you can, you can. You will, you will, you will.” The challenges may seem different, but it’s a lot of the same thing. I am a huge supporter of our international and domestic minority students to come it together as one, sharing situations and problems. They are experience the same thing, just on totally different scales.
The Rambler: As much as international and domestic minority students have difficulty interacting with majority students, the other side also finds it hard to get the conversation started. What do you think would help?
Dr. Mallett: This is two fold. One, our majority students have to let down their barriers and be willing to interact with our minority students. The minority and international students also have to let their guards down and allow majority students to ask them questions about Diversity, even though they may say a “dumb thing” and a stereotype about an ethnic group and culture that is not correct.
The Rambler: How would the understanding or familiarity with Diversity help students as they go further in their career?
Dr. Justin Mallett: Now, with the huge emphasis on gender, disability, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, all of our students need to get a more well-rounded understanding of how these things could affect the workplace. Our students have to understand if we have someone who is Muslim, it’s not a bad thing. This person is Muslim, they are gonna pray 5, 6 times a day. There are people out there who are going to be gay, lesbian, or queer, or transgender, bisexual, and we have to We all to learn to communicate with these groups in the work setting. The best place to do it is college. College is the only place where you are gonna meet persons with disabilities, persons with different genders, persons who are gays and lesbians, and lesbians. You don’t have to have extensive knowledge, you just have to have the understanding. That’s another big mistake that we, as an administration, are making at Illinois College. We want the students to have knowledge of Diversity. No, you just need to have a basic understanding of how this works and you can figure the rest of it out.
The Rambler: Thinking back about your college experience, if you could go back in time and relive it, what would you have done differently?
Dr. Justin Mallett: I would have taken a school-sponsored international trip. I would have studied abroad, I would have stopped playing basketball.
The Rambler: Why would you say that?
Dr. Justin Mallett: Now that I am older and have kids, it’s tougher for me and my wife to go on an international trip we’ve already talking about. We might not be able to go before another 15, 20 years when our kids get older. I’ve been to international trips, to South America, to Europe, but it wasn’t because of the school .So I would’ve loved to do it with my classmates in that situation.
The Rambler: If you are to offer advice to students who are graduating in May, what would it be?
Dr. Mallett: Open your minds. Be accepting of others. The main thing is to open your minds to the environment that is currently around you. You don’t know what life is gonna hit you with. Don’t let TV or anything cloud your judgment.