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June 28, 2022

D’Angelo Is Driven by Pursuit of Inclusive Excellence

By Kelly Saavedra

As summer heats up in Pittsburgh, Mark D’Angelo is as far as he’s ever lived from an ocean. But he is as close as he’s ever been to his lifelong goal of creating a sense of belonging for everyone in an academic environment, no matter who you are.

The New Jersey native is coming up on his one-year anniversary at Carnegie Mellon University working as a learning and development trainer and consultant in the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer (VPDEI & CDO), where he is helping to refocus DEI strategy toward belonging.

“Much of our work is centered on making sure that no matter who you are on campus, whether you are staff, faculty or a student, that you feel like you belong, that you feel comfortable showing up as your most authentic self,” he said. “You are valued. You are needed. You are accepted just as you are. You have a place here.”

As a kid, D’Angelo says he felt “erased” in school, like he wasn’t allowed to exist. He’s gay, and queer experiences were never talked about. Hailing from a family of educators, D’Angelo entered the teaching profession thinking he would finally create the inclusive classroom he always wanted. 

Unfortunately, not much had changed in the 20 years since he was in school. Students were having the same experiences he had as a kid, and as a teacher, there was only so much he could do to help. The desire to do more propelled him to pursue a Ph.D., and he eventually fell in love with working in higher education.

“The brilliance of people at CMU is exciting — what has come out of CMU has literally changed the world. But what is most energizing for me is the collective excitement people here have around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB),” he said. “It’s exciting to be doing DEIB work in a place where there is energy, funding and support, and it’s not just lip service. There is so much forward motion at CMU, and you get to chart the course here, shape the future.”

"You get to chart the course here, shape the future.”
Mark D'Angelo

As an educator, D’Angelo is focused on creating DEIB workshops, presentations, content and resources for faculty and staff. His work over the past year has included designing and delivering workshops and trainings, supporting key events coming out of the VPDEI & CDO Office, such as the MLK Keynote Event with Soledad O’Brien and a panel he moderated for National Coming Out Day, and ultimately helping to develop an institutional framework for inclusive excellence that will underpin DEIB efforts across the university. 

In the background, he says he is getting the lay of the land across CMU as much as possible, as there is “so much amazing work already being done here around diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging.” In real time, he is designing and delivering workshops, identifying gaps and issues around DEIB resources and professional development, and collaborating with key stakeholders across the university around this work — from deans and provosts to students, staff and faculty.

While some define diversity rather narrowly, D’Angelo is quick to point out the range of marginalized identities that exist and the fact that we all inhabit multiple intersecting identities at any given time: age, race, gender identity, neurodiversity, documentation status, socio-economic status, sexuality, ethnicity, and native language to name a few.

Using the analogy of right-handedness, he explains:

“If you’re right-handed, you always have what you need because the world was designed with you in mind — it’s the default. Similarly, our world was very intentionally designed for some identities in mind and not others, and we need to work together to dismantle the oppressive defaults and enhance equity and inclusion and ensure our society is designed with every identity in mind.”

D’Angelo is excited to have experienced his first Pride Month in Pittsburgh and he attended several events, but while he loves what Pride Month does for visibility and awareness, he says supporting LGBTQIA+ people has to go further than going rainbow.

“For me, a lot of Pride Month is taking the time to think about what we can do as individuals to live out our values every day. Are we truly an ally to LGBTQIA+ people or are we just saying that?” he said. “The part of me that has always wanted to be seen looks at all the rainbows during Pride Month and is like, ‘This is so amazing!’ But corporations are quick to throw up a rainbow while they remain complicit in systems that oppress and persecute LGBTQIA+ people.”

He added, “Author and activist bell hooks reminds us that ‘what we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.’”

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