By Nancy Howe
Strong Cancer Recovery, 501c3
Responses from Class 31 participants to the question, “What did you think about Diversity & Inclusion Day?” were remarkably consistent, and reflected two distinct perspectives. The first perspective was about the timing of the class within our year’s schedule. The second perspective was about the content of the day, and the insights we gained as individuals within a group.
A member of Class 30 who joined us at Happy Hour explained that she too had shared the disappointment experienced by Andi and Sarah when “Diversity & Inclusion” was part of their class’s late-spring programming. “By the time we [Class 30] had Diversity & Inclusion day, most of the class was so preoccupied with meeting deadlines for their PLIF teams that they didn’t really focus on meaningful conversation. We had speakers who were informative, but they didn’t help us engage with each other.”
Contrast that experience with the experience described by every Class 31 participant who I spoke with. Comments that I solicited were universally enthusiastic about having Diversity & Inclusion “ice-breakers” all day long, without “expert speakers,” and so early in the process. When we finally were organized into teams at the end of the day, we were no longer strangers. We all shared a sense of having been through many different experiences with everyone our team. We could also imagine rich experiences that might result from interactions with classmates on other teams, now that we felt that we knew everyone. We had all the advantages of the power of the team, as well as the sense of unlimited inspiration and expertise from Class 31 as a whole.
When I asked about the specific activities of the day, everyone I spoke said the day had helped us become aware of, and comfortable with, the diversity within our own ranks. Anne Landers’ response was comprehensive, and touched on nearly every point made by others. I am quoting her at length here.
Anne writes, “I think there is so much power in verbalizing our feelings, opinions, questions and perspectives in a safe group setting like we did on Friday. I’ve heard it said that sometimes we can’t see the lies swirling in our minds until we verbalize them (in this context, being unaware of our bent perspectives or unintentional biases until they were discussed).”
She continues, “It was so honoring to witness people from different sides of issues listen and appreciate one another. I believe we all walked away with a better view of our community, and quite frankly, human intent. People are inherently good, but ultimately a result of our immediate influences.”
Anne also expressed how well the day-chairs accomplished their stated goals for the day. She concludes, “Just imagine – if that can happen with a room of relative strangers, what can we do as a group to bring that impact to the greater community? I’m grateful for the forum that our day-chairs provided us to build the report and momentum – I believe it will lead to a significantly closer class!”