Yesterday morning my Honors 478 students became the ninth section of their course (and sixth led by me) to put on a workshop on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion in a modern multicultural society. Every iteration offers a different take on these topics. Some have chosen to focus on one aspect of personal identity (e.g., race), interrogating that aspect in various contexts and examining its interplay with equity, power, and privilege. Others have deconstructed identity into finer parts, considering several aspects but each less fully than if it had the stage to itself. I was curious to see what direction my students would head in, especially after Samuel’s students presented a new take on the project last week.

My students did not disappoint: in their very well-attended workshop, rather than deconstructing identity into its constituent parts, and rather than tackling diversity-related issues head-on, they chose instead to guide participants through a series of interactive exercises designed to help foster constructive conversation and dialogue with broader groups of interlocutors, getting folks to pop the “bubbles” they often find themselves forced into by Facebook algorithms and homogeneous social circles full of like-minded friends. One activity helped drive home the difference between sympathy and empathy while another helped us to cultivate mindful listening skills. Another challenged us to consider various kinds of service to the community: what’s the difference between charity and volunteering, and when does volunteering cross the line into service learning? And in any case, what party or parties are served? Several students references the course readings, crediting Chambers’s Whose reality counts? with helping them to adopt others’ perspectives and Alexander’s The new Jim Crow with helping them to recognize systemic inequalities.

This summer my colleague Samuel and I will continue to work on our article detailing the workshop activity, with the goal of wrapping it up and submitting it by the summer’s end.

In other news: yesterday I was delighted to learn that I have been recommended for promotion to full professor, appointment pending the approval of our campus’s Chancellor and the school’s Board of Trustees. I can’t imagine achieving this distinction without the tireless help of incredible students, brilliant colleagues, and loving and supportive family and friends. My thanks to all for helping me to make it this far. As I enjoy passing this personal milestone, I promise to stay ever cognizant of the privileges and powers promotion grants to me, and to redouble my efforts in advocating for educational access for all students and equitable treatment of all educators.

 

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