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Auburn students living examples of creed at work through diversity, equity, inclusion efforts

Published: May 05, 2022
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The Auburn Creed references both “mutual helpfulness” and “happiness for all,” and several student leaders have taken those concepts to heart during their time on the Plains.

Seniors Keira McCarrell and Regan Moss are two of those leaders who have worked hard to advance and improve the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, progress as they pursued their studies, each making considerable impact across campus as part of quests to leave Auburn better than they found it. The dedicated duo—which will take part in spring commencement ceremonies May 6-7—first arrived in Auburn unsure of what their futures would hold, and now they are preparing for the next chapters of their lives after helping their soon-to-be alma mater continue a trend of progress and positive evolution.

McCarrell, a Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences major in the College of Liberal Arts, has been a standout athlete on the Auburn track and field team while serving on various committees that promote the advancement of DEI efforts. A two-time NCAA Outdoor Championship participant and SEC Academic Honor Roll selection, McCarrell has served as a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Equity and Inclusion subcommittee, a voters education committee and collaborated with other student leadership groups on various initiatives.

Recently, McCarrell was Auburn Athletics’ women’s sports nominee for the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship. Whether it was working with the Black Student Union to organize and promote last year’s Juneteenth march, organizing student-athlete Soul Food Sunday events, working to create the unity patch that has been displayed on athletes’ uniforms in recent seasons or helping organize voter registration drives, McCarrell has been actively involved in a variety of projects during her short time in Auburn.

“Everything I experienced here has been transformative for my life after my first university,” said McCarrell, who transferred to Auburn from the University of Oregon in 2020. “My involvement as a student leader was a way for me to give back to Auburn, to honor my experience here and to do everything possible to ensure that other students have that same reality. If other students express things that they want to change, or that we could do better, I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that others have their needs met and they walk away loving Auburn the way that I do.”

McCarrell was selected to speak on the student panel at the Women’s Leadership Conference and attended the National Black Student-Athlete Summit last year. She also traveled with other student-athletes to Clarendon, Jamaica, for a community service immersion experience through Courts for Kids.

Simply put, she has made the most of her time at Auburn.

“While my time on the Plains was shorter than some, I’m so happy about the progress and change that we have made,” McCarrell said. “I believe that through the establishment of the diversity subcommittee, we were able to come out strong, and the events we have put on provided an amazing jumping-off point for the next group to come through. I think I did my best to create some permanent changes on campus, while also providing a space where others can see that changes are possible here and know their voice matters and that the administration will listen to us when we speak up. That’s what I am most proud of.”

McCarrell believes the university and student body can do more to advance DEI initiatives, and that belief helps fuel her passion.

“I think Auburn still has a way to go to improve its rate of enrollment for diverse populations, and this will happen through transparency, as well as more opportunities for fun, cultural events that make everyone feel welcome and at home,” McCarrell said. “If students know that there is all of this available to them while they are here, we can be successful in recruiting a student body that more accurately reflects our country as a whole. That would be a huge success story for me.”

After graduation, McCarrell will remain at Auburn to work on her master’s in exercise science, focusing on biomechanics. She will have a graduate assistantship with the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, or OID, working as part of the Cross Cultural Center for Excellence team.

She is excited about the future and poised to continue making an impact on campus and beyond.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity to still work in a field that I’m extremely passionate about, in addition to pursuing my graduate studies,” McCarrell said. “I know that my work as a GA will allow me to stay actively involved in much of the work we have started in the last two years, while also being able to bridge the gap from being an athlete to working with the broader student body in the same vein. I really hope that I will be able to introduce many of the same initiatives that I brought forward in our student-athlete group and introduce them in some form to the Auburn student body.”

Moss, a neuroscience major, has worked as an undergraduate student employee in OID this past year. She worked on projects to advance programs related to women, gender and sexuality across campus. Recently, she was selected to present at the 2022 Posters on the Hill session sponsored by the Council for Undergraduate Research.

Moss works to develop caregiver supports, hosts a book club, works to develop and facilitate a podcast, is involved in the campus sexual violence response and hosts a speaker series with faculty each month that focuses on causes like women’s history and sexual assault awareness. She is dedicated to supporting women on campus while taking into account the many responsibilities women have, from being caregivers and students, to scholars and researchers.

“I am passionate about sexual, reproductive and menstrual health, as well as generational trauma (i.e., child abuse, sexual exploitation, intimate partner violence) and the impacts that these complex experiences have on women as well as mother and infant relations and infant social/neuro development,” Moss said. “I am interested in the intersection of all of these issues with marginalized communities, such as those that are incarcerated or single mothers on welfare.

“Much of my work as a student leader has been informed through community-based participatory research focused on issues like juvenile ‘delinquency,’ teenage pregnancy, sexual interpersonal violence, commercial sexual exploitation and many other projects like my own that is focused on menstrual health in Alabama prisons.”

Moss founded PERIOD. @ Auburn, AL, a chapter of a national nonprofit that works to bring menstrual equity to Alabama. In addition to organizing drives and presentation about menstrual health, Moss’ organization is collaborating with the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Auburn to investigate the role of nonprofits in eradicating menstrual inequities in Alabama.

“I am currently working on proposing bills that will eradicate the Tampon Tax, mandate the provision of products in prisons and schools—not just Title I schools—and allow for the ability to purchase menstrual products with government aid,” Moss said.

Moss stressed the importance of increased student involvement with DEI initiatives on campus.

“I think that progress would be greater if there was more student buy-in,” Moss said. “College is a time of transition and personal growth, and sometimes we are so focused on navigating our own lives that we forget the greater issues that impact the Auburn community and the greater Alabama community. We are in unique positions as students to instigate informed, evidence-based change if we take advantage of it.”

After graduation, Moss will head to Yale University to conduct research at the esteemed institution’s medical school during the summer and working to obtain a certificate in sexuality, sexual and reproductive health. She then will work asynchronously with the team from Yale as she begins her Master of Public Health in population and family health at Columbia University in New York City.

Moss will leave Auburn feeling fulfilled to have made a difference on campus and in the community.

“The aspect of my contributions that I am most proud of is the immense number of partnerships and collaborations that I have facilitated in my nonprofit, student organizations, research and my position within OID,” Moss said. “We all have unique expertise and skills, and collaborative work allows us to build our individual efforts most pragmatically through one another’s strengths and experience.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.

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