More than 5,000 new students and their families were welcomed to campus during New Student Convocation ceremonies held on Aug. 22, 2019.
Discussion Trainers Help Prepare First-Year Experience Facilitators
This week, new first-year and transfer students begin their second week of small-group discussions centered on themes of identity, inclusion, health and community as part of the enhanced First-Year Experience Initiative. For five weeks, students will engage in these important discussions, which are co-led by a peer and lead facilitator.
But, before any of the discussions could happen, the nearly 400 students, deans, faculty and staff serving as peer and lead facilitators needed to be trained on the small-group discussion curriculum. Twenty experienced faculty and staff members conducted these trainings, and serve as coaches to the peer and lead facilitators throughout the five-week discussion series.
Ebitimi Komonibo, director of recruitment and diversity in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, was compelled to become a trainer to help facilitate discussions across different backgrounds and walks of life, enabling University community members to connect on many different levels.
“These conversations teach us to operate at levels of mutual respect and increased understanding,” Komonibo says. “This doesn’t happen without effort, but the health and well-being of our communities depend on us making a concerted effort to bridge gaps that society taught us.”
The expertise of the trainers ranges from creating and leading dialogues, to teaching about diversity and inclusion, to facilitating trainings and programs. All share in the passion for fostering a more welcoming and inclusive community.
Creating an inclusive community is critical at the University level and for society as a whole, says trainer Huey Hsiao, associate director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
“If we want our students to be future leaders in our society, it is absolutely necessary that our students become culturally competent. To make this a reality, we need to engage our students early, so it can set the tone for their four years at the University,” Hsiao says.
Trainer Armando Martinez, an assistant residence director in the Office of Residence Life, agrees.
“Given the climate in today’s world, it’s essential for new students to understand and be willing to discuss the gradient that is diversity and inclusion,” Martinez says. “Too often these themes get boiled down to one versus the other, and it oversimplifies the complexities of humanity and our various identities. The more we engage and acknowledge these complexities, the greater opportunity for learning will occur.”
The trainers realize that the discussions and reflection can be difficult but they are necessary to start achieving real progress in matters of diversity and inclusion.
“Deliberation and dialog are the best tools we have to understand our values, and to develop a shared vision around those values,” says trainer Greg Munno, assistant professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “I love my students and I want them all to feel welcome here and to all thrive. We need to do this work for that to become a reality.”