As a student affairs professional working with traditional age first-year students, I searched for a diversity training model to offer students that would provide them with a method for developing an understanding of the way oppression impacts us all. In addition, I found that students wanted and needed some effective tools for dealing with oppression in its many forms. I was fortunate to be introduced to a diversity-training model from the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) that fit these needs. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the features of their one-day prejudice reduction workshop, how I have implemented this model into our residential leadership program and some information about NCBI.
Three years ago I attended one of NCBI’s one-day workshops on prejudice reduction. As someone who has attended many diversity training models in the past, I was not expecting to really experience anything vastly different from the other workshops I had participated in before. I was happily surprised and changed by my participation in the NCBI workshop. The NCBI workshop, experiential in nature, moves people to new understandings about oppression and prejudice because of its focus on personal stories.
One of the six aspects of theory that form the basis of the NCBI model states “To shift attitudes…hear stories.” The other tenants of this training include the following:
Guilt is the glue that holds prejudice in place.
Every issue counts.
Skill training leads to empowerment.
End leadership oppression.
Teams are necessary for institutional change.
Features of the Workshop
Some of the features of the workshop may be familiar to diversity trainers. As in any other workshop the facilitators take the time to review some ground rules as well as give an overview of the day. The first part of the workshop is designed to create some safety among the attendees by offering them a chance to see the things that they hold in common with each other. From this exercise, participants have a chance to share their multiple identities with another participant. We ask that participant’s pair up with someone they do not know, thus giving them a chance to make new acquaintanceships as well.
From this base, the model then moves to exposing stereotypes we all hold of each other. After processing that information, participants then look at that ways in which they have internalized these stereotypes of the groups to which they belong.
Following these exercises, participants have the opportunity to participate in caucuses choosing one of their identities to focus on. The caucus reports allow participants to share things they never want to hear about their group again as well as things that they want participants to know about their group.
The next section, Speak Outs, is easily the most moving aspect of the training. Usually three to four people are asked to share a story of a time when they felt oppressed. The stories are varied with usually one story being related to race, another to gender and another to sexual orientation. This is a general rule and will change based on the issues raised in the earlier part of the workshop. During this part of the workshop, participants really come to see how even “little” episodes of oppression deeply hurt people.
With this renewed commitment for ending oppression, attendees are ready to learn some tools for interrupting prejudicial remarks or actions. During a role-play exercise, participants learn that to effectively mitigate prejudice they must be in a place to listen to the person who made the comment, to engage that person in dialogue, and to allow this person to share their perspective. Participants come to understand that only through listening and engaging people in further dialogue, can they help others move to a new understanding of oppression.
Incorporating NCBI into the RA Selection Process
As a supervisor for the Resident Advisors at my college, I am always looking for students who have the ability to listen and create opportunities for dialogue with other residents. Knowing that I would be selecting my Resident Advisors from a primarily first year student population, I was eager to have an opportunity to provide some additional training to residents that would help them gain this skill before they became Resident Advisors. And, of course, Resident Advisors, who hold the primary role for community development among students who live on campus, must also understand how to create a safe environment for everyone. I saw the NCBI prejudice reduction workshop as an excellent opportunity for all students to learn and grow and a wonderful way for me to provide some additional training for potential new Resident Advisors.
Working with my local NCBI chapter, we began hosting the one-day prejudice reduction workshops here at Porter College at the University of California at Santa Cruz during the Resident Advisor Selection Process that generally begins in late January or early February. All workshops are lead by two or more facilitators. I prefer to have about four facilitators who come from a variety of backgrounds. Attendance is totally voluntary; however, we encourage students who wish to become Resident Advisors to participate. Held on a Saturday, we generally have about 40 residents (out of a population of about 600) attend our training. Of these 40 residents generally 3 to 4 become Resident Advisors with another 3 or 4 becoming orientation leaders. However, all 40 residents are now able to effectively begin addressing oppression wherever they might encounter it. And that’s a very good thing for all of us.
Training for Student Facilitators
One of the most beneficial aspects of this program is the additional training that is offered by NCBI for people who want to become facilitators. Thus far, I have been able to take 6 students to the three-day Train the Trainers sessions. This has allowed us to have student facilitators for our one-day workshops. I have found that the residents respond very openly to other students as facilitators and, in addition, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with these trained student facilitators in other workshops.
Submitted by Jeanine Cowan, Coordinator for Residential Education at Porter College at the University of California at Santa Cruz