“If you change nothing, nothing will change.”
These words resonated throughout the compelling presentation on diversity and inclusion provided to first-year Bay Path students on their third day of orientation.
In light of recent events not only in our own country but around the world underscoring cognitive biases and the need for teaching inclusivity, administrators at Bay Path thought it more important than ever to build diversity and inclusion training into orientation for our incoming students, athletes, and their student leaders.
Angela Watson, EdD, Assistant Dean of Students, and the staff in the division of Student Life, began putting their plans into action this past spring.
“Fundamentally, we have to understand that every one of us matters,” Watson said. “Once we know and acknowledge that no matter our differences, and that each and every one of us is important, we can truly begin to build community and work together to affect positive change. That’s why this training is so essential for our students. In a learning community, there is a tremendous opportunity to learn from each other and realize we all have a role to play in the safety and security of our campus.”
Watson called upon Harris Jones Consulting to lead first-year students in a group conversation about accepting our own identities as well as the importance of diverse communities. But the training didn’t begin at orientation--Kelvin J. Harris and David E. Jones, cofounders of the consulting firm, led multiple webinars and workshops with student leaders in the months leading up to the event, ensuring that they were prepared to guide their groups in addressing what can be very difficult subject matter.
“When I was an Area Coordinator (AC) at Eastern Connecticut State University, David and Kelvin were student leaders, working to make a difference in the world even then. Since graduating and going on to doctoral programs, they’ve continued this work and partnership that developed naturally, even living and working in different states,” Watson said. “They are truly leading the way in this field they are so passionate about, together and in their daily work.”
Harris leads the Leadership Development Programs and Alumni Relations team at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where he manages all the programmatic and academic empowerment personal and professional development efforts for the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Jones serves as the director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and holds a doctorate of education in organizational leadership and communication from Northeastern University.
In addition to the webinars from Harris Jones Consulting, student leaders and athletes attended a full-day workshop put on by Liza Talusan, a facilitator in conversations about unconscious bias, racism, diversity and more. Talusan has experience in higher education and is currently dedicating her commitment to building inclusion and awareness to her work as a teacher in the K-12 community.
Watson said that the University will continue to feature speakers from different walks of life to continue this conversation going forward, including our own Bay Path students. The University’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force includes a student sub-committee working with administrators on a plan of action to educate and train others, serving as leaders on campus.
“Our goal is to create an atmosphere where we can create and facilitate programming and training that is naturally inclusive.”
Watson added that programming will roll out this fall.