Oct 25, 2011
By Katie Flaherty
A new program initiated by Ohio University's Office for Diversity, Access and Equity along with University Human Resources Leadership and Staff Development aims to encourage diverse cultural awareness and development throughout the university and community.
Launched on Oct. 12, Diversity Essentials is a quarterly series of four professional, interactive cohort sessions consisting of hands-on exercises and group discussions.
Each session is two and a half hours long and focuses on examining concepts of cross-cultural understanding and inclusion.
Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity and program developer Brian Bridges explained the idea behind the initiative as a projection of the office's new mantra to "transform knowledge into understanding and passion into action."
"We want to equip faculty and staff with some knowledge of difference and how they can most appreciate it and advance diversity on campus," says Bridges.
The fall quarter pilot cohort consists of 29 members, including 10 participants from University Communications and Marketing and seven from University Advancement and Development. The first quarter sessions span from October to December.
Although currently both groups engaged in the modules are selected from University offices, the program is open to members of the community as well. Diversity Essentials breaks the typical format for recruitment by targeting offices and groups on campus and throughout the city to provide opportunities to learn together and
improve working relationships with each other as individuals and within our professional offices.
"This helps us get beyond the choir members to get people there who wouldn't normally participate in something like this," says Bridges.
Each of the sessions will be led by two or three facilitators with knowledge and experience from the Summer Institute of Diversity Education (SIDE) to help advance the development process.
As part of a larger plan to promote diversity on campus, the program's intent is to begin education with faculty and staff members who can then help facilitate the incorporation of student organizations.
"Understanding and actively supporting Diversity in its fullest sense is key to being an educational institution of choice and an employer of choice," says Chief Human Resource Officer Linda Lonsinger. "UHR is pleased to be a part of offering this opportunity to the Athens community, as well as the university community."
HR Leadership and Staff Development Consultant Teri Combs, one of the program's co-coordinators, specifies how the design aids the project's objective.
"The whole point of having the cohort is that you have peers who are with you and supporting you. You walk into this new experience with people you know, but after the first session you're seated with someone else because we want you to meet new people and network," says Combs.
By bringing together departments and groups throughout the area the potential for widespread effects increases.
"My hope is that in a couple of years we have a large portion of our faculty and staff who have been trained and have bought into the idea of using intercultural communication techniques to build bridges to diversity and help people appreciate difference and different perspectives," says Bridges.
To apply to become part of a future Diversity Essentials cohort email the Office of Diversity Access and Equity at firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why your group should be selected. The application deadline for next quarter's cohorts is Nov. 11.