To start the semester off we hosted a module on diverse communities.
The goals of this module were to:
Everyone has a variety of identities placed upon them by themselves and their society. These include things like: Race, ethnicity, social class, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability status, spiritual or religious affiliation, age, body size/shape, appearance, education, immigrant status, etc.
While some of these identities are visible, others can be hidden. Our choices can be heavily based on our self-perception of how those identities will be perceived and the stereotypes, both positive and negative, that we associate with them. Much of what we think of these identities is learned through our experiences with family and peers, at school, in the community, through the media, or elsewhere in our lives. The challenges both in opportunity and in self-perception that we face result from a combination and intersection of how we perceive ourselves and the way we are perceived. Even when some of our identities are considered valuable in society, others that are perceived as less desirable can be used as tools of oppression or justification for discrimination. We should always strive to examine our own perceptions and try to analyze and correct our biases.
Speaker: Jessica Kuchta-Miller, MA, JD, Office of the Ombuds at Washington University in St. Louis
The audience should be able to:
Jessica Kuchta-Miller began with an overview of the Ombuds Office and their four main goals.
Jessica Kuchta-Miller is the principal contact for staff, graduate students and postdocs on all campus locations. There are separate ombuds for Danforth faculty, medical campus faculty, and medical students. See resources below for more information.
In addition to learning about a valuable campus resource, we were also introduced to effective communication strategies. We learned about mental traps to recognize and avoid. The 10 mental traps Jessica Kuchta-Miller described are listed below:
To emphasize the impact that these mental traps have on us, Jessica Kuchta-Miller facilitated an exercise demonstrating that the way information is framed, in conjunction with our biases, can influence the way we interpret a situation. She explained how some of our beliefs may be founded on faulty interpretation of data, using the Ladder of Inference to show us how beliefs are adapted.
Jessica Kuchta-Miller also provided the group with an overview of Ting listening and specific steps to take in important conversations, which are similar to the LARA communication skills Connections has covered in prior years.
TING listening is listening with your whole self. We should use not only our ears, but our mind, heart, and eyes as well, all while giving the speaker our undivided attention.
From the US Department of State, there are four rules to TING (or active) listening:
1. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
2. Be non-judgmental
3. Give your undivided attention to the speaker
4. Use silence effectively
The steps for communication have been summarized from the handout prepared by Jessica Kuchta-Miller:
The strategies introduced in this lecture will be useful to members when having conversations both inside and outside of Connections. These skills will be reviewed at each discussion and should be utilized in upcoming lectures and discussions.
Ombuds FAQs: https://staffombuds.wustl.edu/faqs/
For staff, postdocs, & graduate students: https://staffombuds.wustl.edu/
For faculty & students on the Medical Campus: https://ombuds.med.wustl.edu/
For Danforth faculty: https://facultyombuds.wustl.edu/
TING Listening: https://www.state.gov/m/a/os/65759.htm
Ladder of Influence: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_91.htm
LARA Communication: https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/AM17/Difficult%20Dialogue%20Handout%201.pdf
Eleven Connections members took a weekend-long field trip to Chicago June 15-17. We traveled to and from Chicago by Amtrak and stayed in Louis Armstrong’s old house in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Over the course of the jam-packed weekend we participated in a variety of cultural and educational experiences.
Here is an outline of the events that we attended:
Saturday June 16th
Race Exhibit – Chicago History Museum
Chicago LGBTQ+ Pride Festival
Puerto Rican People’s Parade
Taste of Randolf Street Festival
Grand Park Gold Coast Art Fair
Classical Music Festival
Sunday June 17th
National Museum of Mexican American Art
Italian Block Party
DuSable Museum of African American History
Photos and Review of Activities:
The “RACE Exhibit: Are We So Different?” was featured at the Chicago History Museum. Members spent most of their time in this exhibit which presented historical and modern perspectives on the construct of race.
Chicago LGBTQ+ Pride Festival
From the Chicago History Museum we took Lyft rides to the LGBTQ+ Pride festival on North Halsted in the Boystown neighborhood. We arrived during the early part of festival activities, and were able to see the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and the Pride Drag Show.
After this we went to the Puerto Rican People’s Parade. It was starting to get hot at this point, and we were all trying to make sure we kept hydrated. We watched the parade proceed down W Division Street to Humboldt Park.
From here we went to the Taste of Randolf Street Festival where there were a variety of food and art stands set up. A number of attendees ate lunch here and rested after walking around all day.
From here we travelled downtown to the Grant and Millennium Parks area. Some members attended the Grand Park Gold Coast Art Fair while others explored the attractions in Millennium Park and reserved seats for the Classical Music Festival at Pritzker Pavilion.
After the show we walked over to Buckingham Fountain and got dinner at Exchequer Restaurant.
We started the next day off at National Museum of Mexican Art. Here we were able to see some beautiful art as well as a number of pieces and exhibits that explored the cultural experiences of Mexican-Americans in the USA, as well as Chicago in particular.
We then went to the Italian Block Party where we ate a lot of Italian cuisine for lunch on Oakley Avenue. National Canoli Day was this weekend, so a number of us ate some delicious canoli for dessert!
Lastly, we visited the DuSable Museum of African American History. The museum’s mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs, and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. It is dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans.
Questions and Discussions that came up during post-trip reflection:
Student Advisory Committee
WUSM Office of Diversity Programs
DBBS Office of Diversity and Student Affairs
Speaker: Joshua Swamidass, MD, PhD
Three Main Messages from the Speaker:
Brief interview with Francis Collins:
Video: Teach Us All (Netflix)
Teach Us All is a documentary written and directed by Sonia Lowman.
On their website they proclaim:
"We stand for ALL students in America having equal access to quality education.Add your voice. Join the movement. Create change.#TeachUsAll"
See this site for more information: http://www.teachusallfilm.org/
Speaker: Dr. Adia Wingfield
We were so privileged to have Dr. Adia Wingfield to speak with us. She is currently a Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr. Wingfield spoke began her talk with myths surrounding race & racial inequality. She then shared with us some of the analyses currently being done by social scientists on the topic. For example, the data shows extensive disparities between people of color and whites in areas including life expectancy, health outcomes, employment/wages, and educational attainment.
She then outlined three main explanations that different social scientists give as to why these disparities exist: racialized social systems (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva), systemic racism (Feagin), and intersectionality (Patricia Hill Collins, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw). Though the three explanations all agree that racial inequalities are driven by social institutions or systems "built to advantage whites over people of color" they differ in their reasons for how and why these systems continue.
Examining why racial disparities exist is important to help us figure out how to address these inequalities. The main consensus is a structural change that influences the policies, laws, and rules that perpetuate racial disparities.
Image from: https://sociology.wustl.edu/people/adia-harvey-wingfield
We watched a talk by Anthony B. Iton, MD, JD, MPH about the root causes of health disparities, specifically in California. Dr. Iton is the Senior Vice President at The California Endowment, which is attempting to bring equity to underserved populations in California.
For more information on health disparities in St. Louis please look at the report For The Sake of All. This report outlines health disparities in our city specifically and outlines potentially solutions to this major problem.
Speaker: Annie Grier, MSW, Project Manager of the Smart Decarceration Initiative
Three Main Messages from the Lecture:
Interview with Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow”
Smart Decarceration Initiative (SDI) – www.smartdecarceration.org
Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation – https://advancingjustice.wustl.edu/Pages/default.aspx
STAR – http://www.stlreentry.org/resources.html
This blog is made to record the information learned at Connections lectures.
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