Amanda Johnson-Scott started her job as an administrative assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering on March 9, 2020. She had no idea that by the end of the week she would be working remotely for more than a year, having only met four colleagues. She felt isolated as one of the few Black people in her department, an experience familiar to many African Americans in the workplace.  

About 30% of Black people feel lonely at work according to Cigna’s Loneliness at Work Study, conducted in partnership with the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.  

Further, research from Coqual found that more than 35% of African Americans and Latinos said they believe they have to compromise their authenticity at work.   

At Emory, efforts are underway to address these issues, including the formation of employee resource groups: Emory Black Employee Network (EBEN) and Emory Pride Employee Network. These two were the first to be piloted based on the results of an employee survey conducted by Emory’s Human Resources division last summer.   Through these two groups, Emory is striving to provide opportunities for networking and social connection, enhance community and give voice to marginalized or underrepresented communities.

“We want people to feel a stronger sense of connection to Emory and help people find mentors and professional development,” says Melissa Morgan, manager of recognition and engagement in Human Resources. “A lot of people have difficulty figuring out what their career path can be at Emory. We want people to come here, stay here and love Emory as a place to work.” 

Finding a place 

For Johnson-Scott, getting connected has been essential to helping her find a place at Emory. In April 2020, she joined the Emory Employee Council and now she’s one of the EBEN co-chairs.   

“When we got started, my co-chair [Brandon Gardner] and I talked to people who have been here longer than us and asked them how do they feel? They mentioned silos, experiencing microaggressions and feeling as if they couldn’t get promoted within,” says Johnson-Scott. “We’re not here to solve all your problems. But it’s nice to be around other people who can understand what I’m going through at work.” 

During the past 18 years, Rita Frazier has built her own community at Emory, finding mentors in people such as University Ombuds Lynell Cadray. Frazier, who is one of the membership-recruitment chairs for EBEN, believes this new resource group gives Black employees a chance to network, share information about professional development opportunities, as well as find mentors and mentees.   

“I see so many people who are really good at their jobs just languishing in a position when they have the opportunity to do more,” says Frazier, who is the manager for financial planning and analysis in the Department of Pathology. “I’ll speak up and advocate for myself, but everyone is not like that, and it doesn’t take away from their awesomeness. A lot of times, people just need someone who can believe in them and that can open them up.” 

Creating connections 

Since starting this spring, EBEN has 300 members. Last month, they hosted an after-work Juneteenth mixer at The Hatchery. 

On July 19, EBEN is having a virtual event called “Tired of Fakin’ It Til You Make It?” for BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. During the event, attendees will discuss the unique mental health challenges and needs of historically disenfranchised or oppressed racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This meeting is in partnership with the Emory Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) and moderated by Mellonie Hayes Mullins, an employee assistance clinician in FSAP. 

EBEN co-chair Brandon Gardner, who is associate director of community engagement in the Office of Government and Community Affairs, says he wants people to feel free to be their authentic selves no matter where they are at Emory.  

“There have been times when I felt as if I had to wear a mask and speak a certain way to make sure my colleagues feel comfortable,” says Gardner. “It’s draining to be put in that situation, and it’s a topic that we as people of color can all relate to.” 

EBEN also has more social events coming. On August 6, they will host a family-friendly cookout at Westside Atlanta Park in the Great Lawn Pavilion. Gardner says attendees can expect plenty of food, games and dancing.  

“There’s a need to bring people together and create a safe space where we can be ourselves,” says Gardner. “It’s important for me to be a part of building a legacy at Emory and to know that I helped lay a more equitable foundation for future employees.” 

EBEN Working Group 

  • Cedric Blatch, complex director, student staff training coordinator, Office of Residence Life  
  • Jessica Browning, human resource specialist, Emory National Primate Research Center  
  • Rita Frazier, manager for financial planning & analysis, Department of Pathology, School of Medicine   
  • Brandon Gardner, associate director of community engagement, Office of Government and Community Affairs  
  • Morieka Johnson, director of communications, Emory Police Department   
  • Amanda Johnson-Scott, administrative assistant, School of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering  
  • Nora Lewis, academic department administrator, Emory College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Shervon Lewis, learning designer, Campus Services Learning & Development  
  • Maurice Middleton, EBEN faculty scholar and associate vice provost of institutional equity and compliance, Equal Opportunity Programs 
  • Veronica Phillips, senior administrative assistant, Emory National Primate Research Institute
  • J.L. Reed, program coordinator, Department of Orthopedics, School of Medicine

For more information, email [email protected]. 

EBEN events are open to all Emory faculty and staff.

Webinar: “Tired of Fakin’ It Til You Make It?: A Conversation on Black Mental Health”

Tuesday, July 19, 12 p.m.

Register here. 

Black at Emory Cookout at Westside Atlanta Park

Saturday, August 6, 1-4 p.m.

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