By Tina Kalenits
A diversity and inclusion workshop brought Youngstown State University students and faculty together in Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut Room to learn how to discuss diversity in a productive way.
The Rev. Jamie Washington, president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, led the discussion that was aimed at creating a sense of diversity within a community, including race, gender equality and inclusion.
Washington has experience in higher-education spanning over 36 years, and he serves as the pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in Baltimore, Maryland. The Washington Consulting Group is one of the top 10 global diversity consultants in the world.
During the discussion, Washington said there are three ways of communicating in diverse environments. The first is through effective and open conversation with one another.
“What’s important is folks are having real conversations. … The outcome is using your practice, using your voice in the conversation,” he said.
According to Washington, the second communication technique is self-reflection and engagement with others.
“Being able to talk about what one’s perspective is in such that you hear yourself saying what you’ve not,” he said. “It’s just you spinning your mind.”
Lastly, being able to build relationships, hear other perspectives and know how to have productive talks with one another are all key when talking about diversity.
“The responsibility of higher education is to prepare the next generation of leaders,” he said. We exist in the marketplace to make sure that we have an educated society and a society that’s advancing society.”
Carol Bennett, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion at YSU, said alliance begins with a community that knows how to communicate.
“This is the foundation to lead to other talks. Whether the colleges want to do something separately or we have many workshops on what’s microaggressions, what’s implicit bias,” she said. “I’m hoping that people get an understanding in a foundation.”
The workshop consisted of small and large group discussions between students, faculty and members of the community with 30 in attendance.
“This is how to build an inclusive learning environment; Youngstown State University is a learning environment. … But how do we work it that way?” Bennett said.
According to Bennett, as we work to create a more diverse community, others will follow.
“There are so many different people on campus, whether they’re students, staff and faculty, so we can, as you say, have good end-product college graduates, college graduates that are doing what they want to do in career and life,” she said.
Bennett said she wants to keep the momentum of diversity going within the campus community at YSU.
“The goal is to make campus aware that we are working toward ideas of diversity, equity, inclusion,” she said.
Kate Easterday, a sophomore early childhood intervention specialist major, said the workshop helped her think about others’ experiences in a different way.
“One thing that you don’t often think about is the context of the conversation, who’s around you, where they’re coming from and where you’re coming from. That definitely can impact a conversation,” Easterday said.
According to Easterday, diversity is everywhere you turn in society.
“Everyone’s different and everyone has their own background, and to overlook that is irresponsible,” she said.