Not only did she have to contend with unfair treatment because of her skin color and gender, but Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Accreditation Manager Nathalie Watty Brouwer, MPM, also faced discrimination based on colorism and class consciousness. Four strikes before she even walked through the door of opportunity. Regardless, that didn’t stop her from continuing to climb the success ladder. Nathalie now has her sights set on affecting change at RUSM and its parent company, Adtalem Global Education, serving as a member of the RUSM Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce and chair elect for Adtalem’s EDGE (Empowerment, Diversity, Growth, Excellence) women’s affinity group.
“I deal with discrimination by talking about it because it’s everywhere, even within the Black communities,” Nathalie explained, adding that she’s been mistreated because of her darker complexion and the texture of her hair, colorism that she says exists in most Caribbean communities. “My ethnicity or gender should not have any impact on how I am perceived or treated or even how I am valued within a work environment. Either I am a good at what I do or I’m not; either I am qualified for my role or I’m not. My ability to succeed shouldn’t be based on any other factors.”
Stand Up for Change
Nathalie does not believe all discrimination is deliberate but rather that it stems from unconscious biases, insufficient information or a failure to appreciate differences. She tries to level the playing field by speaking up and educating others, which is why she joined the two inclusion-driven organizations at RUSM and Adtalem.
“I want to ensure voices like mine are heard and people who share my perspective have a seat at the table. I want to contribute my thoughts on how to sow the seeds that affect real change, so Black Caribbean women can be seen as change agents. People spend a lot of time tiptoeing around issues because they’re not comfortable with them, but the only way to sustain change is to confront it head on. And I urge everyone to look inward and recognize your own biases and blind spots so we can bring about the change needed for equality to exist. We each need to commit to changing our spheres of influence.”
Nathalie admits that her ambition to change the narrative has not always been easy, but it’s long been engrained in her core, thanks to her outspoken father. “He’s never been afraid to call things out, which has guided me throughout my life. When you see something that is fundamentally wrong, you must speak out. As I get older, I’m less afraid of the possible repercussions of speaking my mind and more concerned about enacting change.”
Describing her childhood as “magical,” Nathalie recalls her fondest memories in Jamaica where she and friends “got into all kinds of mischief.” Those life-long friends joined her in climbing trees, creating a mini-Olympics program in which they bribed the moms to bake sweets for prizes, and playing several sports including soccer, cricket, badminton and volleyball.
In her professional life, Nathalie jokes, “I still don’t know if I know what I want to be when I grow up,” yet her resume speaks volumes. After a few years working in the library at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, she headed to Dominica to help manage a cousin’s business. That led to work in the financial services and insurance industries as well as a role in business operations. Joining RUSM 16 years ago, Nathalie has held many positions — in housing, faculty affairs, planning and project management, academic administration, strategic planning and now accreditation. “It’s been a continuous journey of lifelong learning.”
Time to Relax
A self-declared foodie, Nathalie experiments in the kitchen and appreciates a good wine. She has eclectic taste in music, enjoying jazz, rhythm and blues, reggae, soca and classical music, and even recalls her early days of humming Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. During lock down in Barbados, she has learned to bake bread and is spending cherished time with her husband whom she affectionally refers to as “my best friend and the love of my life.”
As Nathalie continues her self-awareness mission through journaling, she offers advice to others who witness disparities and are ready to overcome adversity. “Tomorrow is promised to no one so make the best of today. Spend time reflecting and figuring out what’s most important to you. Don’t be overly concerned about others’ opinions or perceptions, that will only impact your self-esteem and ability to chart your own course. Know yourself and remember, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.”
Make sure to check out our Black History Month Alumni Spotlight seminar.
RUSM Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce
A group of 16 RUSM students, faculty, colleagues and alumni have begun leading a holistic review of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University and will soon deliver a report of short- and long-term recommendations. This is the first of many steps to sustain change at the infrastructure level.
As RUSM prepares to engage, train, educate, advocate and invest in this process to align with the Black community at our University and in all the underrepresented and marginalized communities in which we serve, we invite others to share feedback with us because we know the fight for social justice is a community collaboration.