Staff Spotlight – Marinda Monfilston

Like many of us at Yale and across the country, as we watch current national events unfold, set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, Marinda Monfilston, Diversity Program Coordinator for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, has seized this opportunity as a time to look within, self-reflect, and grow, both professionally and personally.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Marinda about her experiences, her proudest accomplishments, and how she maintains work/life balance to navigate successfully through these unprecedented times.

What is your current role, and how did you begin your career at the University?
I am the Diversity Program Coordinator for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, where I oversee the implementation of 500+ diversity and inclusion activities, events, meetings, and workshops for our eight staff affinity groups.

I started as a casual employee in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in April 2013, while working on my dual master’s degree at the University of New Haven. Shortly after my six-month casual assignment ended, the position became available and I was invited to temporarily fill the role and apply. In August 2014, I became an official Yale employee.

How has the COVID pandemic impacted your work?
The pandemic has allowed me to focus on projects that I didn’t have time to complete before. For example, an ally event had been in the works for at least three years, but I hadn’t had the time to review the vast resources I had gathered. Because of COVID, I was able to take a deep dive into the resources and effectively plan and execute a virtual panel discussion on allyship in action. 132 people tuned in for a very timely discussion about what an ally is, why allies are needed in the workplace, the pros and cons of being an ally, what it takes to become an ally, and best practices for being an effective ally. I was also able to share a curated PowerPoint of resources, to encourage continuing this important conversation with colleagues and peers, in departments, and with our affinity groups. In terms of personal development, I had an opportunity to enroll in The Science of Well-Being course on Coursera, and it was phenomenal! I learned about my signature strengths and have used this time to focus on incorporating them daily in my personal and professional life.

What has proven to be most challenging for you in terms of coping with our current national and global state of affairs? Most positive?
Given the current events in the world surrounding the COVID pandemic and racial tension, I have certainly been on an emotional and mental rollercoaster. As someone that enjoys being on the go, socializing and interacting with other people, it has been very challenging working from home while parenting my 2-year-old daughter Laila. I have had to allow myself time to process, reflect, and discuss the racial tension with those most affected by it: the black men in my family. I’ve also had to give myself permission to feel and understand my own emotions and to deal with them productively while trying to keep work and home life separate.

On the positive side, I have been participating in meaningful racial and ally discussions for the first time in both my personal and professional life, thanks to inclusive leadership and the courage of our affinity group members. I’ve also been leveraging technology to stay connected with family and friends. I hosted a Zoom DJ birthday party for my mom in Chicago, and a Zoom Baby Shark birthday party for my daughter. It was the first time that all her great-grandparents (three great-grandmothers and one great-grandfather) were in the same (virtual) space together! Furthermore, I’ve been able to participate in a weekly Zoom hip hop dance class with my brother and nephew in Chicago.

While working from home, what steps have you taken to achieve a work/life balance?
My husband and I check in daily regarding what our workday looks like, and when we will need to rotate caring for our daughter. However, I have struggled with disconnecting from my work and email after the workday ends, as I am the type of person that is obsessed with getting things done (a recovering perfectionist). Given this, I am committed to not responding to emails that come in over the weekend and to shutting down my computer at 5:00 pm to avoid the temptation of overworking.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of your recent experiences?
I’ve learned that working from home can take over your life if you don’t set boundaries and focus on what’s most important. I’ve accepted that some things are out of my control, especially now that we are relying very heavily on technology. I have learned to adapt, adjust, be flexible, and accept that my best efforts are often going to look different in our new environment.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Being a mother, a wife, a lifelong learner, and a diversity & inclusion champion.

How have your leaders or peers supported you, and ensured your success, as you’ve been simultaneously taking care of your children and managing a demanding workload?
My manager, Deborah (Debbie) Stanley-McAulay, has been incredibly supportive during my ‘new normal.’ I have flexibility when it comes to scheduling meetings while Laila is napping. I also feel fortunate to have Susan Abramson as a member of my team, because she has been extremely helpful in sharing available resources, and relaying concerns to senior leadership on behalf of working parents. My leadership genuinely cares about my wellbeing, is always willing to help when I am overwhelmed, and is very supportive in allowing me to take advantage of continuous learning opportunities as my schedule permits. I feel blessed to work with an amazing group of colleagues who allow me to bring my whole self to work.