Days of Dialogue opens up discussion at Five Colleges

By Sara Jackson

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Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Days of Dialogue is an event that brings staff and faculty from the Five Colleges into a shared space to talk openly about topics like race, class and gender. The second event of its kind will be held on the University of Massachusetts campus from Oct. 18-21.

The event is a partnership between the Five College Training and Development Collaborative, the Diversity Directors from across the Five College campuses, the Social Justice Education Program of the UMass School of Education and the Office of Workplace Learning and Development.

The event aims to provide an atmosphere for faculty and staff to discuss social issues that take place on campus. The event is part of the ongoing work of Dr. Ximena Zúñiga, who is a national leader in diversity education and professor of education in the social justice education program at UMass. Zúñiga will continue to bring her expertise into the Days of Dialogue.

“My hope for the Five Colleges Days of Dialogue is that it will motivate us to step outside our comfort zones and continue to search for opportunities to have similar conversations in the workplace and our personal lives,” said Zúñiga.

The event will offer two-and-a-half hour sessions on different topics like Race and Ethnicity, Gender Dynamics at Work and Rank and Class that will allow participants to question and learn how these issues affect them in the workplace.

“The Days of Dialogue provide an atmosphere in which to grow around the differences that employees on campus focus on. The dialogues ask how we understand our peers in the workplace by looking at the issue in the broader United States,” said Margaret Arsenault of the Office of Workplace Learning and Development. “ Can this understanding lead to us work better with those on campus?”

When asked if she thought the majority people participating in the dialogues were aware that these issues were happening on campus, Arsenault agreed.

She said, “On campus, people think that rank plays a big part. This can result in more credibility and an employee can question whether they are being heard and the value of their own opinion.

“People are desirous to learn and that is why they sign up for this event,” she added,.

“The event will bring together the faculty and staff from all of the Five Colleges to talk about these crucial issues, which is positive for all the campuses,” said Kevin Kennedy, the director of communications at Five Colleges, Inc.

All of those that are leading the individual dialogues were trained at the Five College Intergroup Dialogue Training Institute which is in its second year and provided facilitation training for 60 staff and faculty members from the Five Colleges. The Institute was co-led by Dr. Zúñiga who hopes to see the Days of Dialogue as a larger event.

“I am indeed hoping that we will gradually build the capacity to involve not only more a faculty and staff, but also students in one-time and sustained conversations about race/ethnicity, gender, religion, class and other important diversity issues,” she said.

The Days of Dialogue that UMass will see in the next two weeks are the starting point for faculty and staff to discuss critical issues on campus. In the future, those involved in both the Days of Dialogue and the summer facilitator training would like to see the program have a longer and more sustained impact.

Sara Jackson can be reached at [email protected]