I know I’m late to the party but I finally saw Hidden Figures. It was an inspiring and beautifully told story but some things truly stuck out. Why wasn’t this story told before? How many more tales are hidden from the masses? Lastly how many hidden figures are we missing out on right now?

I can’t stress this enough. The voices of the students matter most. They dictate the cultural atmosphere of any institution. We are doing everyone a disservice when we ignore those individuals. 

So often, student affairs professionals and advisors alike, gravitate to the people who are already seeking engagement. You like the leaders who are interested in leadership. The non traditional student gets bypassed because you assume they have kids and a day job and wouldn’t want to be involved. Athletes get left out of conversations because how could they possibly take on the responsibilities of a sport and a leadership position in another area? Others have a bad rep simply  because they had one alcohol or weed violation and never again get included in dialogues about leadership. 

The first thing I recognized about the film was that these three women were quite brilliant. With a chance to learn more or to be included in the closed door meetings, they not only made a difference but literally saved the mission. Shifts happen when opportunity is made available to folks who were never given a shot. It also occurred because they refused to be silent.  I never suppress the voice of the students. Instead I give them the tools and resources to be more effective. 

We miss out on so much brilliance from our students because many of us, have at points been lazy. We don’t walk around the student center just to be a part of the community. We’d rather sit at our desk for lunch then go to the cafeteria for a few. I make it  my duty to eat in the residential car every so often and break bread with the “Hidden Figures” I might have never met. I think of the admissions counselors who see something special in a “Hidden Figure”, give them a shot and that student ends up becoming a star in the classroom. Take a moment and ask that “Hidden Figure” who holds court in the quad and ask them if they’d be interested in becoming an RA. The women from Hidden Figures were left out of conversations because they didn’t fit the traditional mold. Our student leaders come in all shapes, even some shapes that you’ve never seen before.

Let’s keep it a hundred, many of us in Student Affairs are Hidden Figures ourselves. I can’t tell you how many committees I’ve sat on over the years and the Student Affairs voice in the room, whether me or not has had to fight for a voice in the room. “We need someone to get students to come, Jeff, you got that?” Never mind other aspects of the planning or expertise you bring you to the table.

So enough is enough. Go find the Hidden Figure student leaders. Don’t be a Hidden Figure voice in a meeting.

Oh and go see Hidden Figures, it was amazing!

IMG_4902MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 5 books of poetry, including his latest, Trill Motivation With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at mrjeffdess@gmail.com