Student Voices

You Can Call it DEI. I Call it Making Family and Safe Spaces to Belong.

By Anna H Lam

While I came to Michigan Ross to advance my career in serving marginalized and low-income communities, I also came with the intention to create safe spaces within our student body.

At the time, I was in the midst of exploring what it means to be Chinese American, Asian American, and an ally to other students of color. Parts of me sought out the company of others so that we could uncover our identities in a place of belonging and acceptance. I sought out dialogue and honesty, necessities for the best kind of community and family. Little did I foresee the heightened need for this in the past year.

To me, creating safe spaces is about being completely vulnerable, welcoming others to do the same, and accepting all that people share (or choose to not share). It is about communication and building bridges of respect and love regardless of our differences. 

Within the Consortium community at Michigan Ross, we have had tough conversations throughout the events of the past year, including the continued police brutality against Black Americans, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hate crimes and violence against the AAPI community. These conversations also expanded beyond the Consortium, within both casual and more professional settings. One example of this was at the Women Who Launch Symposium, where keynote speaker Arlan Hamilton touched on her role as the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is what we need more of: transparent communication and unprejudiced communities.

During my time at Michigan Ross, I have been vulnerable in many spaces including the Asian American Business Association’s East Meets West event (view below for recording), and I have invited my beloved peers to do the same in spaces like AABA's Support Group & Listening Session (in response to the Atlanta spa shootings) and Black Business Student Association’s Allyship group (with co-directors J’Taime Lyons, Doug Noe, and Taylor Clark).

With every experience of vulnerability, I have increasingly found that if I have the privilege and capacity to speak up and put myself out there, I should not turn down any opportunity to do so (shout out to community leader and Ross alum Jerry Won). Because more important than speaking my truth is the invitation for others to do the same and the opportunity to create the sense of family that I look for wherever I go, and that others look for as well.

By no means am I doing this alone. At Ross, “family” is always in the making. I chose Ross because I was invited into this family and saw potential for me to build upon it. From my early interactions with students and staff (Lauren Abuouf, Katarina Chan, Bryan Johnson) to meeting my soon-to-be peers (Kachi Ezirike, Patrice Drummond, Harshita Pilla) to finally living the life of a Rosser (too many amazing people to name), I have been blessed with newfound families.

We are always in the process of making family and safe spaces to belong, share, and celebrate – you can call it DEI, but I just call it what it is.

No one explains “family” better than Janet Mock, an American writer, producer, and transgender rights activist: “I think of family as community. I think of the spaces where you don't have to shrink yourself, where you don't have to pretend or to perform. You can fully show up and be vulnerable and in silence, completely empty and that's completely enough. You show up, as you are, without judgment, without ridicule, without fear or violence, or policing, or containment. And you can be there, and you're filled all the way up. We get to choose our families. We are not limited by biology. We get to make ourselves. And we get to make our families.”