Breathing Room fosters environment of inclusion

The Breathing Room is TCU’s first affinity group, a voluntary, employee-led group designed to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace by joining together groups based on shared interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity. Now in its third year, the group comprises black female faculty, staff and graduate students.

“The Breathing Room is a grassroots effort to enhance TCU’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at a personal level, with a focus on self-care and attention,” said Aisha Torrey-Sawyer, director for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives and a participant of the group. “We focus on the six dimensions of health as outlined in TCU’s FrogLife Wellness Program—physical, occupational, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual—and meet throughout the semester to build camaraderie, create a sense of belonging and provide support for each other on a personal and professional level.”

Affinity groups, aka employee resource groups, began in the 1960s as a networking opportunity for women and, most often, black employees, who were the most visibly underrepresented group at the time. Today, these groups are common in most large U.S. organizations and now include Hispanic, Asian and LGBTQ employees, those with disabilities, veterans and other underrepresented groups who want to promote recruitment, retention and career advancement interests of their respective communities.

Torrey-Sawyer hopes the Breathing Room will encourage others on campus to create groups that reflect their ideologies or interests. As she and co-founders of the group share details of the program with peer institutions and professional organizations, the level of interest both at TCU and beyond is growing.

“While not a physical space, the Breathing Room provides a positive environment in which we can engage and empower one another, celebrate accomplishments and create a platform for our voices to be heard. The number of people inquiring about the group from other institutions across the nation is amazing,” said Whitnee Boyd, coordinator of Special Projects and a co-founder of the group. “We are pleased with the participation and feedback, as well as the support we have from senior administration, including Human Resources, the Office of Inclusion and Title IX, as well as Student Affairs.

“Our members play a vital role in helping ensure an environment where everyone is valued, included and empowered to succeed, and we do it in a collaborative and fun way.”