Diversity Awareness Seminars Expanded

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

A recent day-long seminar on diversity awareness drew some 100 participants as the Human Resources Department launched a stepped-up program of diversity workshops for University staff.

The number of attendees at the Dec. 8 seminar in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room was much larger than that at any of the single-day workshops on diversity awareness offered during the previous academic year, said Human Resource administrators.

By offering larger-capacity sessions, organizers hope to triple the number of employees who participate in diversity training this year, increasing the annual participation rate from 150 to 450.

A pilot series of one-day diversity workshops introduced in 1997-98 was designed to accommodate about 15 participants per session. Organizers decided over the summer to redesign the program to accommodate between 100 and 150 participants at a session, with three or four sessions scheduled over the course of the academic year.

Human Resources Vice President Leo V. Sullivan said the aim is to "accelerate the volume of participants" from across campus to ensure "the desired impact and maintain momentum" on diversity awareness.

Under the new format, participants assemble in a large group for welcoming remarks in the morning, then break into smaller sections for workshops over the course of the day.

"A major aspect of the initiative is to create opportunities for honest dialogue by offering a framework and language to think about and discuss multicultural issues in an environment that is conducive to good, constructive communication," said Sullivan.

Human Resources Internal Consultant for Diversity Sidney Holloway describes the seminars as "awareness sessions," designed to boost an appreciation of diversity as "a team-based way of doing things that values differences.

"The idea isn't to preach what you should think," Holloway said, "but to give the community the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on what diversity means, in an environment that is non-judgmental."

Organizers said the seminars are part of a larger plan to introduce greater sensitivity toward diversity into University operations at every level.

"We are encouraging, wherever possible, a philosophy of integrating multicultural issues into natural workplace systems such as the Performance Management Program and educating Project Delta teams," said Sullivan.

Placing an appreciation of cultural diversity at the heart of the way the University does business, said Holloway, will help "get the most out of everybody" who works on campus.

"The ultimate aim," he said, "is to leverage the differences in our community to make us the best-run university in the country."

Return to Dec. 10 menu

Return to Chronicle home page