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
Speaker: Brittany Harris, Social Justice Educator; Trainer & Facilitator, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Washington University in St. Louis
Topics: Stockley Verdict, Allyship, Activism Discussion
Today we were extremely lucky to have Brittany Harris speak with us. She is a St. Louis native and joined Washington University last September as a Training & Development Specialist with the Center for Diversity & Inclusion. Though the scheduled topic was Intersectionality, Ms. Harris led us in a timely discussion of the verdict that was announced this morning in the case of former St. Louis officer, Jason Stockley.
Three Main Messages from the Discussion:
1. Summary of the Stockley Case and Timeline: In 2011, St. Louis officer Jason Stockley shot and killed Anthony Lemar Smith. After a short altercation in which Smith struck Stockley’s hand with his vehicle and hit the police vehicle, Stockley and his partner Brian Bianchi gave chase. Audio from within the police vehicle recorded Stockley saying “we’re going to kill this motherf**** don’t you know.” After a short interaction, Smith was shot. Initially defending his actions by alleging Smith had a pistol on him, Stockley was indicted for 1st degree murder 4½ years later, after new evidence came to light. A pistol was found in Smith’s possession, however only DNA from Stockley was found on the weapon. Stockley opted out of a jury of his peers and the judge ruled ‘Not Guilty’ this morning. To note, Stockley was also illegally carrying his personal AK47 with him during this encounter. Also, it is important to note that Smith was an African American man and Stockley is a white man. The implications, power difference, and possible biases presented by this difference in race are of considerable importance. Another account reported by NPR can be found here: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/15/551228046/former-st-louis-police-officer-is-acquitted-of-murder-in-anthony-lamar-smith-cas
2. Why did it take so long for the case to be brought to court and who gets the privilege of a trial? When Ms. Harris asked for questions and reactions to this morning events, we discussed why the indictment took so long. While Ms. Harris admitted her bias, the conclusion was that the system is undoubtedly broken. Systems perpetuate and protect themselves. So, the idea that “maybe people won’t care so much if we delay the process” is a possible reason for the delay in the process. Another potential reason was the new evidence that came to light regarding the likely planting of the pistol. Another issue was the fact that Smith seemed to be dealing drugs at the time of the altercation. A Connections member asked how that weighs into the sequence of events and justification of Stockley’s actions. Ms. Harris asked us “who gets the privilege of their day in court?” She asked this to present the idea that, yes, Smith may have committed a crime, but he was killed for that possible crime, while Stockley was privileged to live to go to trial for his potential crimes. Likewise, people of color are more likely to be killed by police, while white people are more likely to be apprehended without fatal injury and live to go to trial.
3. Allyship requires Action. No matter the political or social opinions of an individual, it is true that to be an ally to a community requires action. Ms. Harris stated she has “revoked” ally cards (hers included) when she notices that we (or she) are harming the community we claim to support. She said we can be part of a community and still harm a community. “We all have the power to sit at the dinner table” but what will we choose to do? Will we let those racist comments slide? Will we engage with an “I love you, but this is not okay”? And most importantly, she asked us, “What are you willing to lose as an ally?”
Near the end of the discussion, Ms. Harris called on us to think about how things like body type, age, race, gender, location, country of origin, etc. can intersect to make us more (or less) vulnerable. She pointed out the difference between misogyny (the hatred of women) and misogynoir (the hatred of black women, where race and gender intersect). While everyone’s vulnerabilities are valid, we are more likely to oppress others in sections where we are not oppressed. Able-bodiedness and neurotypicality (the assumption that there is a ‘normal’ brain) make it easy to “other” people. Be aware of all the factors at play in society and do our best to be present for one another. Ms. Harris ended with a final plea to love on the people in your life right now and always.
We were so grateful to have Brittany Harris share with us today.
Thank you to everyone who could be there.
Written by Kayla Nygaard
Edited and formatted by Leeran Dublin
Speaker: Leeran Dublin
Topics: Ting Listening & LARA Communication
Details coming soon.
This blog is made to record the information learned at Connections lectures.
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