Second Annual Diversity Institute will bring together students from two area high schools and SU on March 30
Second Annual Diversity Institute will bring together students from two area high schools and SU on March 30 March 26, 2007Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
On Friday, March 30, nearly 100 high school and Syracuse University students will meet on the SU campus for the Second Annual Diversity Institute, an opportunity to engage in dialogue on how and to what degree schools socialize regarding perceptions of race and class.
The event, which will bring together about 70 students from Nottingham and Fayetteville-Manlius high schools and 30 SU students, will be held from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. in the Kilian Room, Room 500 of the Hall of Languages.
This year’s event builds on last year’s successful inaugural “Diversity Institute — Raising Our Voices.” This year’s keynote speaker will be Dalia Rodriguez, assistant professor of inclusive elementary and special education and cultural foundations of education in SU’s School of Education. Rodriguez is an expert in the area of sociology of education and qualitative research methods, and her research interests focus on issues of access to education, racial inequality and multicultural education.
In addition to the keynote address, the Diversity Institute will include a session on finding common ground, race-sensitive scenario enactments and small-group sessions in which students will brainstorm “a call to action.” At the conclusion of the event, the high school students will weave their “call to action” responses into a single, collaborative response piece.
Judy Hamilton, director of the Intergroup Dialogue Research Project and adjunct professor of sociology in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, says the Diversity Institute gives high school students a forum to engage in frank and open conversation while tapping the expertise of SU faculty, students and staff.
“The Diversity Institute provides Nottingham and Fayetteville-Manlius high school students with a unique opportunity to build on the collaborative work they have already started in their classrooms,” Hamilton says. “It also gives SU faculty, staff and students the chance to put scholarship in action — to take what they are learning and practicing on the SU campus and help to advance important conversations on these challenging issues that exist in our greater community.”
The Diversity Institute is rooted in the Community-Wide Dialogue to End Racism (CWD), a program of InterFaith Works (http://www.interfaithworkscny.org). CWD began five years ago a dialogue between students at Nottingham High School in Syracuse and Fayetteville-Manlius High School about race and ethnicity issues in the schools and the community. From that initial dialogue grew weekly dialogue sessions and shadow days and inspiration for other local high schools to begin exchanges of their own.
The Diversity Institute, another successful outgrowth of that dialogue, represents a partnership among SU faculty and staff, Nottingham teacher Jennifer Benedetto and Fayetteville-Manlius teacher Laurie Iodice. Benedetto and Iodice offer courses on race and culture in American society, and the students at each school participate in regular dialogue as part of the courses. The Diversity Institute takes the dialogue a step further, providing the teachers and their students with access to the expertise and experience of SU faculty, staff and students involved in intergroup dialogue.
“By nature of geography, my students have been insulated, in terms of meaningful experience with other school cultures beyond district boundaries,” says Iodice. “The Diversity Institute is one way to overcome this by cultivating courageous leadership while challenging the assumptions of those who would lead.”
At SU, courses on Intergroup Dialogue began in the 2005-06 academic year, offered through the Department of Sociology and the Women’s Studies Program. In addition, Conversations About Race and Ethnicity (CARE), a collaborative effort of Academic Affairs, the Office of Residence Life, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Community-Wide Dialogue, brings hundreds of students together for weekly intergroup dialogue in SU’s residence halls. The University’s Office of Human Resources sponsors dialogue circles for staff. And SU also participates in the Multiversity Intergroup Dialogue Project, a 10-university collaboration to develop best practices in intergroup dialogue and study its benefits.
In 2006, the University created a home for the Intergroup Dialogue Program at 113 Euclid Ave., providing students, faculty and staff with a welcoming space for study and dialogue.