Kayla Griffin wears many hats at Weber State University: professor, volunteer coach, committee chair and more. This summer, she added another title: the Diversity and Inclusive Programs Coordinator.
While the office might be new for Griffin, she already has a long history of striving to create welcoming environments for students.
After working for the federal government, and even zoos and aquariums, in Idaho, Griffin moved to Utah in 2019 to teach at WSU. As a communication instructor, she taught classes such as Intercultural Communication and Mass Media and Society, which helps to teach students to incorporate diverse viewpoints into their communication styles.
“Kayla fiercely defends diversity and inclusion,” said Kyle Housley, a digital media student at WSU who took Interpersonal and Small Group Communication under Griffin during her first semester teaching.
Housley went on to describe how Griffin made it abundantly clear that any form of discrimination would not be tolerated in her classroom and that she would actively speak out against any type of injustice.
On top of teaching, Griffin served as a volunteer coach for the university’s speech team alongside her husband, Mark Galaviz. As a previous speech competitor herself, Griffin has helped students write pieces that embrace both social justice and personal issues.
Rebecca Baggett, speech team captain and a senior at WSU, is just one student Griffin has helped find their voice while in a difficult environment.
“Her passion for learning and advocacy inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone,” Baggett said. “I am gaining a bigger perspective, widening my scope and realizing more every day each of us can have an impact on the world.”
Griffin also fights to make change outside of her classroom. During only her second year at WSU, Griffin was elected chair of the communication department’s diversity committee where she dedicated herself to creating a space where faculty, staff and students feel accepted.
While she will have to step down as the committee chair, Griffin believes this is the perfect time to be taking on a larger role for the university.
“I am excited to jump on at a time where things like critical race theory are being pushed against because this is where I can really highlight some of that lobbying work that I have behind me,” Griffin said.
But Griffin’s passion for inclusiveness doesn’t just come from her lobbying work. Coming from an East Indian family, Griffin experienced bullying throughout middle and high school following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“From work to school, it was a very isolating experience, and it’s even prevalent in higher education,” Griffin said. “This is why I love when schools create programs like this, because we can no longer let students struggle through it by themselves.”
Griffin will continue teaching an online Mass Media and Society course for the fall semester, but will likely switch her focus to her new role after winter break.
“I will miss teaching, but I am glad that I still get to have those relationships with students where I can help them feel safe,” Griffin said.