By the time Jade Calvin-Nau graduated from high school, she had lived and learned in a half-dozen countries.
It was her mother’s career working in diplomatic offices that took them both from New York to Haiti and Ecuador, to Switzerland and the French border, then Spain and finally back to Florida in time for her to finish high school.
Moving from one country to the next at a young age was exciting, Calvin-Nau says, though there were plenty of difficulties adapting. During her stint at a French high school, she jokes, the best she could master was a sort of “conversational French.”
But it was those experiences, Calvin-Nau says, that fueled her passion for fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in professional and academic settings. It’s at the core of her work as an assistant residential coordinator with Binghamton University Residential Life as she pursues a Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration (MS SAA).
“My mom worked a lot, but she always brought me everywhere and those experiences helped me appreciate working with people from different backgrounds,” Calvin-Nau says. “I’m fluent in Spanish and my favorite thing in the world with this job is talking to parents of students in their own language, seeing that kind of ’deep breath’ they take by relaxing and knowing they don’t have to speak through their kid. We can all have the conversation.”
In the fall 2022 semester, she contributed even more to help promote diversity within the University through an internship with the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
One of the many projects she worked on was under Sharon Bryant, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Her work involved assisting Bryant and another graduate assistant in cataloging the diversity represented in various works of art throughout the campus.
Calvin-Nau took stock of artwork in residence halls, which she says was just one piece of the important project to ensure artwork on campus accurately reflects the students on campus. For students each day, she says, these artworks could easily become passive fixtures. But showing diversity throughout campus in even small ways is just as important as promoting diversity, she says.
“I believe in proactive diversity versus reactive diversity, and that means making change before change has to be made,” Calvin-Nau says. “I also believe in equity and inclusion for students who are differently abled — those with differences you can’t see — who might not have their own support systems in place.”
In addition to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion while at Binghamton University, she assists college students in aligning their academic and professional goals. In her Residential Life role, Calvin-Nau takes pride in helping undergraduate students work toward an academic path that best fits with their professional aspirations at the time.
It’s a challenge Calvin-Nau understands well.
As an undergraduate at Buffalo State University, it took several attempts to realize her career ambitions didn’t always align with her academic interests.
Failing biology, for instance, convinced her to course-correct initial plans for medical school. Afterward, she considered becoming a clinical psychologist, but she discovered the science of psychology didn’t fascinate her nearly as much as its foundation: helping people.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Calvin-Nau supervised faculty and staff volunteers at Buffalo’s on-campus COVID testing site. When faculty asked questions like, “What are students feeling right now?” she realized her perspective could be valuable in helping other students succeed in their college experiences.
Once Calvin-Nau was accepted into Binghamton’s student affairs administration program, she found an ideal convergence of her personal interests and professional goals.
“Working with students can sometimes be just like psychology, just without the ’shrinking.’ I share my experiences; they share their experiences, and we figure it out together,” Calvin-Nau says. “Mom always taught me to be thorough, so I start by asking, ’What’s in this program for you?”
Working in Residential Life, Calvin-Nau steers students to achieve their educational goals beyond college. She also makes it clear that it’s okay if graduate education isn’t the right fit for a particular student as long as there’s still a plan for what to do after earning an undergraduate degree.
“I believe in higher education, but I’m also cognizant that it’s not for everybody. I went through the same thing, thinking I had to be a doctor or a lawyer — my grandmother’s a lawyer — so I once felt I had to follow in her footsteps,” Calvin-Nau says. “But what I’ve learned in working with students from different backgrounds is to just be there to help them, the way my mentors helped me.”
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