Adjunct Faculty, Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring
Program Coordinator, LOVE Pilot Program
A recent graduate of the Physician Assistant Program considering his employment options, Alex Cristofori ’21MMS reflected on how his time as a facilitator and participant in the Living Our Values Experience (LOVE) Pilot Program has shaped and informed his career path.
“I already have a seat at the table, which I knew,” said Cristofori, acknowledging the ways that white male privilege operates. “Now, I understand better how to use it in more strategic ways to change the power structures of my profession.”
The LOVE Pilot program is a space for Arcadia students, staff, and faculty to explore issues of identity, racism, and systemic discrimination, and to examine their own role within society as change agents. During his time in the program, Cristofori had an opportunity to co-facilitate a white affinity group, as well as sit in a working group on racial disparity in public health. He also sat on various committees focused on racial equity within his department and major, immersing himself in Anti-Black Racism Initiatives (ABRI) during his final year at Arcadia. Although a commitment to racial equity has been a growing concern of Cristofori’s since he began his program at Arcadia and learned about the “deep and absurd inequity” that exists in public health, he admits that he didn’t always know how to address it effectively – a skill he was able to develop and practice within the learning lab of LOVE.
“I really learned a lot about how to be uncomfortable,” Cristofori said. “To sit with all the emotions – be it shame, jealousy, fear – and not turn off, but figure out how to work through it all.” Cristofori credits much of this growth to being mentored by more experienced members of the program, particularly women of color. The LOVE Pilot Program draws participants from across the Arcadia community – undergraduates, graduates, staff, and faculty. To Cristofori, this diversity of not only race, but age, experience, position, and department, was of particular value.
“I don’t know if I will ever have such an amazing opportunity to sit with and learn firsthand from a more experienced group of people as I did in LOVE,” said Cristofori. “Seeing the ways that people were able to address the inevitable conflicts and differences in perspective. Then, producing ideas and initiatives in such a short period of time, was really inspiring. In the end, I was surprised by what we accomplished. I think we all were.”
In some of the earliest meetings in the fall 2020, participants were encouraged to dive a bit deeper into their identities and look at the ways they are informed and shaped by them. While this experience was different for each individual and for each affinity group, Cristofori acknowledged that it was particularly useful to him.
“I never thought much about identity beyond, ‘I am a white male,’ which I see now is so limited,” said Cristofori. “Through my time with LOVE, I started to unpack my identity and understand not only what it is, but how it operates. There’s how I identify myself, seeing that I do have a culture and how I relate to that. But then there’s the social aspect – how does my identity impact my interactions as a health care provider? How does it inform how others perceive me? And how do I work with that in my profession?”
As Cristofori engages in his job search, he admits that there are plenty of “cushy” positions out there, but not as many that reflect his commitment to racial equity in health care, or to serving those who are currently underserved by the medical establishment.
“I definitely talk more about racial equity in interviews than my prospective employers do, and I worry that I talk about it too much,” he admits. But he also feels that his time at Arcadia, and the opportunities he had to find and hone his voice through his work with LOVE and other ABRI programs on campus, strengthened his conviction to keep looking. “I trust that I will find a place that is able to hear what I have to say on the topic and will reflect that commitment back to me, and I will know that is the place for me.”
The LOVE Pilot Program begins its second year this fall and participation is open to undergraduates, graduates, staff, and faculty. For more information about the program write to LOVEPilot@arcadia.edu, and to register to participate fill out this form.