Zareen Karani Araoz, a part-time faculty member in the Carroll School of Management and president of the consulting firm Managing Across Cultures, delivered the summit's keynote address. Photo by Peter Julian.

On a Wednesday morning in May, some 200 Boston College administrators, faculty, and staff members closed their eyes and imagined a life experience very different from their own. Some tried to envision growing up poor, being an immigrant in the U.S., or having a disability.  

“Put yourself in their shoes,” said Zareen Karani Araoz, a part-time faculty member in the Carroll School of Management and president of the consulting firm Managing Across Cultures. “What might their childhood have been like? How would they feel coming to Boston College?”

The exercise was the first of many that would engage attendees of the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Summit, sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity. The daylong event, held May 22, brought faculty and staff together to explore and reflect on issues related to race and identity at Boston College.

President William P. Leahy, S.J.

President William P. Leahy, S.J. delivered opening remarks. Photo by Peter Julian.

In his opening remarks, University President William P. Leahy, S.J., introduced the summit’s theme, “Transformational Dialogue,” and underscored the importance of listening to the stories of others.

“Everybody should have a chance to be heard because everybody has value,” he said. “Today, we have the opportunity to draw from personal experience, engage in transformational dialogue, and think creatively about challenges and opportunities that lie before us as members of the BC community.”

Araoz delivered the summit’s keynote address, which focused on cultural differences, identity, and values, as well as strategies for building bridges across differences.

“We need to look for areas where we can connect,” she said. “We all have so many facets to our identities—we are women, we like basketball, we are fond of music, we hold these values—that’s what’s important, not the labels society gives us.”

Throughout the day, participants attended sessions on topics including supporting LGBTQ+ students, understanding the trauma of racism, and recognizing actions that sustain systems of privilege and oppression. An afternoon panel discussion featuring four BC faculty and staff members highlighted different styles and approaches to creating and sustaining dialogue, action, and allyship.

In between sessions, OID Executive Director Patricia Lowe shared moving audio recordings of faculty telling their own transformational stories, many involving incidents of discrimination they had faced. The recordings will remain posted on the OID website, and are intended to jumpstart meaningful conversations and connections between faculty and staff.

“It’s not just a simple ‘How are you?’ or ‘Nice to see you,’ it’s a conversation that invites something new,” said Lowe. “When we make time to engage in transformational dialogue, it creates lasting change in ourselves, but also in others.”

—Alix Hackett | University Communications