Meet Arpit Nagra: Committed to Empowering Others

As a graduate SLP student at St. John’s University, Queens, Arpit Nagra challenges herself to think critically and intuitively when learning in diverse situations. She’s committed to then sharing those experiences with others to improve equity within CSD.

Quick Facts

  • 1st generation American
  • Member of the Sigma Alpha Eta Speech Language Pathology Honors Society, Lambda Kappa Phi St. John’s College Honors Society, and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honors Society; as well as the National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Participated in a joint research project with St. John’s University CSD Department and Northwestern University’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory
  • National NSSLHA member for 3 years

Why Is Diversity in CSD Important to You?

“It’s imperative that we, as students and professionals, mirror the rich diversity of the clients we’ll serve. To do so, we must commit ourselves to building a culturally and linguistically diverse membership base. Inclusivity must be prioritized at both local and national levels, as it affirms that the unique experiences of diverse individuals are supported and valued.

Additionally, examining and correcting the inequitable systems that disadvantage people from minoritized backgrounds is a substantial agent of change. Throughout my education, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and critically examine existing infrastructure within the CSD field. I’ve noticed various shortcomings in approaches that lack cultural awareness and thereby often unintentionally alienate and even directly harm those from backgrounds underrepresented in our field.

One example is the recurring pattern of Black children in predominantly white schools being misdiagnosed with language impairments at a higher rate. These patterns demonstrate the importance of not only increasing awareness of cultural differences within our field but also of promoting diversity and recognizing the significance of employing individuals with shared experiences to their patients. An equitable system recognizes these structural imbalances and ensures equal opportunities from a social justice perspective. If you want to learn more, Dr. Shameka Stanford, PhD, CCC-SLP, (@the_juvenileforensic_slp) is a great resource about this and other ways CSD and the school-to-confinement pipeline are intertwined.”

How Has Your Experience as a First-Generation American and a Woman of Color in CSD Impacted Your Drive to Empower Others?

As a first-generation American born to Indian immigrants, my culture and multilingualism have always held high importance to me, both personally and professionally. Born and raised in Kolkata, India, my parents have a rich linguistic history with native fluencies in Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, and English. My home environment constantly placed high importance on using a culturally aware and curious lens to connect with others.

I’ve always sought comfort and solace through language as a means of connecting to my roots. This was a moving force in shaping my worldview and determining my goals as a future SLP, along with my passion for supporting individuals in maximizing their communicative potentials across linguistic and cultural borders. As someone coming from this background into a predominately white CSD cohort, I’m able to recognize and appreciate my own cultural influences and how they’ve shaped my perspectives as a pre-professional.

According to ASHA’s 2020 Member & Affiliate Profile, 91.5% of ASHA members and affiliates identify as white. Because of this, it’s the professional responsibility of CSD students and professionals to promote equity in their respective settings. Addressing these disparities and reevaluating the status quo paves the way in enabling diverse communities of professionals to thrive.

Tell Us About How You’ve Taken Steps to Improve Equity within CSD

As a Diversity Peer Educator during my undergraduate career, I began my journey of empowering others through speech and communication. Through weeks of intensive training, I learned the importance of leaning into discomfort and challenging implicit biases. Leading discussions on sensitive topics and educating my peers on cultural responsiveness have allowed me to strengthen my own ability to serve as an advocate for myself and other minoritized individuals. With this role, I routinely promoted dialogues among my campus community regarding empathy, awareness, and the inclusion of diverse communities.

I also serve on my university’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in CSD, which is responsible for coordinating departmental efforts and actionable steps toward building an equitable and inclusive environment for CSD students. We initiated our efforts following the nationwide anti-racism movements in the summer of 2020. Through the support of my academic mentor and Task Force Chair, Gary E. Martin, PhD, CCC-SLP, we implemented this Task Force to foster a safe space for initiating difficult but important conversations. This effort has given us the opportunity to amplify the voices of minoritized students and faculty within our department in order to chart a sustainable path forward.

Additionally, as a new member of National NSSLHA’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) Work Group, I hope to continue fostering inclusive environments that value the unique perspectives of linguistically and culturally diverse individuals nationwide. My roles as a Diversity Peer Educator and CSD DEI Task Force member allowed me to deepen my efforts in advocacy in the field of CSD and create initiatives with lasting impact in my university. Serving in these positions empowered me to get involved at the national level so I can continue my efforts on a larger scale. In doing so, I hope to continue supporting the widespread journey towards systemic change and ultimately shifting the field to an equitable position for minority CSD professionals and students alike. I’m currently working with the IDEA Work Group to organize our next Raw Conversation event in December—more info coming soon to National NSSLHA’s website!

How Can Others Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives on Their Campuses?

As a CSD pre-professional, to promote better care for patients from diverse backgrounds, I prioritize advocating for diversity and inclusion in the field in a way that not only empowers other minoritized individuals but all CSD students and professionals. I empower you to actively seek out opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as to continue advocating for yourself and others.

As our society becomes increasingly diverse, it’s imperative that we reflect the population of patients we serve. I encourage all of us to challenge ourselves and our communities to not only become better professionals, but also more receptive and empathetic individuals in our everyday lives.

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