Diversity Story Slam: Jessica Goytizolo

Jessica Goytizolo portrait
Jessica Goytizolo DPT ’20/Photo: Hannah Benet

The Power of Diversity


MY NAME IS JESSICA GOYTIZOLO. I am a first-generation American, meaning everyone before my generation was born out of the country. I am a born and raised Floridian. However, I closely identify as Peruvian and am very in touch with my Peruvian descent and roots. I came to California at the end of 2017 to start in the DPT program at USC. Since then, I have had the honor of becoming the president for the Physical Therapy Multicultural Leadership Alliance Club and had amazing opportunities to meet wonderful people from all over the world and participate in many events that are all about diversity.

It’s pretty unsettling how we are in the 21st century, and we still have to talk about this topic of diversity and inclusion. To try to persuade people to consider it important. To try to spread the message. To try to continue to push for “diversity” because it is still not a norm. It isn’t common, it isn’t something we are including in our everyday culture as if it were ink in a pen. We need it. We need diversity to keep moving forward just like we need variety in the alphabet. Without variety, everything is the same. There is no form of communication, no knowledge shared, no moving forward. I would like to share a little bit of perspective I recently came across.

Diversity should not be a goal. Before anyone stops me, let me clarify. I am not saying that diversity is not important — quite the opposite: Diversity is key to any organization, company, school or group success. But diversity should be an outcome of the efforts to maximize a group’s performance and not seen as a condition we are trying to impose.

Inclusion is the key ingredient to any group success and diversity should be a measure of that success. And not only should inclusion be a key ingredient in groups, schools and work environments, but also in communities, cultures and families. “One of the exclusion habits that we all have is assigning fixed meanings to objects.”

This is a quote by Kat Holmes in an article she wrote, “5 Ways Inclusion Fuels Innovation:
In a classic creative thinking exercise, one is asked to imagine all the different ways of using a typical brick. An expected application is to layer bricks to build the walls of a structure. But what else? Perhaps the brick is a doorstop. Maybe it’s heated and used to cook a chicken, or ground into dust and used as sand. If we change the shape, context or purpose of an object, it can take on a new meaning.

Diversity should be an outcome of the efforts to maximize a group’s performance and not seen as a condition we are trying to impose.

—Jessica Goytizolo DPT ’20

We can’t define a person based on typical stereotypes — Whether that be someone’s race being associated with a specific job or their gender associated with a certain skill set. We each have something unique to offer. Everyone comes with their own history, their own background that has shaped them to be the person they are today and pursue the dreams they are pursuing.

Take for example a group of students participating in a medical mission trip. I’ve been in plenty of mission trips to Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico. I don’t think we would be half as successful if we had tried to find people with the same background, same credentials and almost identical resumés. For some of the ones I did earlier in college to Nicaragua and Honduras, we rarely turned anyone down!

During my first medical mission, I remember getting together for our first meeting and just thinking what a funky, mismatched group of people. You would think that only medical students would be allowed or accepted on to the trip, but no, we had computer science majors, engineers and art majors, too. At the end of the trip, when we were all doing a group reflection, it really hit me that everyone played such an important part in this trip.

There were small people that could fit into smaller areas when we were helping with construction, the stronger people able to lift and transport more supplies, people that spoke Spanish helping to translate, others with really good people skills helping us gain the trust of the families in a foreign country, creative minds helping us problem solve when we got stuck. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter what major you were because everyone that was included on the trip had that passion to help others and just the goal of having a successful mission trip. And we really did. It was a huge success.

So, that was one of they most powerful experiences I’ve had that really showed me how important inclusion can be and how its result in diversity can bring a certain power and advantage to a group with a common goal.

—Jessica Goytizolo