Renea Morris

Renea Morris

Photographer: Kevin Riddell

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Diversity, Dialogue and Dumela

Communications and Marketing chief shares thoughts on Diversity Institute

Editorial note: Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Renea Morris was one of 31 participants in last week's first Summer Institute for Diversity Education. The event, which was facilitated by Mark Orbe, professor of communication at Western Michigan University, took place July 27-30 at the Human Resources Training Center. Morris took some time to share her thoughts on the Institute.

Transformative experiences at Ohio University aren't just for students—they're for administrators and staff as well.

Recently I attended the first Summer Institute for Diversity Education, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity. It was a great workshop for all concerned, and for me transformative in a very special way.

One of my takeaways from the Institute was the importance of becoming a culturally competent and mindful communicator. During the session, I discovered a desire to become a better facilitator of dialogue. An exchange between people of different beliefs and perspectives resulting in mutual understanding between the two parties, true dialogue is a powerful communication tool. Inherent in dialogue is authenticity and transparency, which transforms how I see myself as well as others. This is what diversity is all about.

During the workshop, an exercise I found particularly insightful was a self-assessment on diversity and communication. Designed to raise awareness of how perceptions affect our communication with others, we completed 10 sentences with our top of mind response.

The response to "One stereotype that I have – but know I need to change…" generated quite a bit of discussion and even some dialogic moments within the group.

I discovered that how I answered the question was just as important as my reactions to how others responded, thereby creating the opportunity for discovery, discussion, and potentially,

At the beginning of the session, Dr. Orbe shared a greeting used in Botswana and parts of South Africa. Dumela, the equivalent of "Good Day," has a deeper meaning that provided a strong foundation during our time together. Implicitly, Dumela means, "I affirm you. I believe in you. And I see great potential in you."

I may not adopt this word into my vernacular, but the lesson is clear – if I want to become a champion and change-agent for diversity education, the spirit of Dumela is a path toward that end.