The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Intergroup Dialogue

It’s no secret that CUPA-HR has been working on a diversity, equity and inclusion statement and action plan. (We will also be  sharing this with attendees at our 2011 Annual Conference!) As we have worked on these documents, discussed what they mean for us as an organization and as a national office, many questions have emerged. While many of us have been taught to separate our personal and professional lives, it is increasingly difficult to do so with the technology available today as well as the demands made on our time – both personally and professionally. However, with an initiative like this, it’s personal. As I have unwound these concepts in my own mind – and heart – it’s sometimes a bit shocking to realize how ingrained some of my preconceived notions are and how far back they go. Perhaps I’ll share some of these thoughts in an additional post but I wanted to share something we did as a national office that, I believe, caused us all to look at these topics in a different light.

During the first week of August we gathered as a national office for two half-day intergroup dialogue sessions not really knowing what to expect other than this had something to do with diversity and, based on the name, we were obviously going to talk about it! The sessions were led by Elaine Brigham who is a Doctoral Student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an Instructor at Smith College as well as Tanya Williams, Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion at Mt. Holyoke College. What transpired over these two sessions brought to light many issues surrounding identity, who we are, who we perceive others to be and subsequently created an environment where we could talk and discuss some items that may have otherwise been pretty uncomfortable. While utilizing dialogue as the discussion mechanism had far reaching effect beyond race and ethnicity (works pretty good in marriage too!) it is a great tool for topics that can be sensitive.

Having been almost a month since we’ve done this I believe that some of the most beneficial discussions and thought have occurred since as a result of what we did these two days. While we may have walked away knowing more about race, ethnicity, diversity and one-another perhaps we learned more about ourselves.

I’d certainly recommend this experience and it just so happens we have Elaine and Tanya lined up for a preconference workshop at our Annual Conference in Orlando later in September. You can check it out here and hopefully I’ll be seeing you in Orlando!