WSU-Rochester benefits from 'Becoming the Solution' workshops
Winona State University-Rochester staff and faculty participated in a series of diversity training workshops this past year entitled “Becoming the Solution,” offered by the Diversity Council of Rochester. The Rochester campus experienced two-hour diversity workshops every two weeks from September through April. Volunteers and staff members from the Diversity Council presented on the topics and there was also time each session for small group discussions and larger group feedback.
Craig Johnson, Director of WSU-Rochester, organized the training workshops and said diversity training is the responsibility of every organization.
“I was interested in trying to find a way to help the WSU-Rochester campus be more proactive in its commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts,” Johnson said.
Some of the workshop topics included “Race And Privilege”; “Race: The Power Of An Illusion. Episode 3: The House We Live In”; “Let’s Talk – Sexual Orientation”; “Let’s Talk – Gender”; “Intersection Where Religion And Culture Mix”; “Beyond Taco Night”; “Let’s Talk – Immigration”; “Let’s Talk – Generation And Age At Workplace”; “Let’s Talk – Disability/Ability”; “Rising Above Stereotype and Prejudice”; and “Learning Languages,” among others.
The Diversity Council trainers traveled to the University Center campus during the every other week training sessions and presented in front of groups that ranged from 15 to 20 participants each time. The trainers used power point presentations, small group feedback, lectures, and large group discussions to forge a greater understanding of issues surrounding diversity with the participants.
Johnson said the trainings were both informative and challenging for him.
“I learned new ideas and information that I can use in my work and my personal life, and the discussions helped me recognize some assumptions that I may make about people. The workshops challenged me to work, think and communicate in different ways,” he said.
Other WSU-Rochester staff members echoed Johnson’s thoughts.
Jan Stephenson, Assistant Director, said everyone can use this training to their benefit.
“It was informative and fun,” she said. “The presenters were interesting as they came from different perspectives, themselves, and made the content interesting which resulted in lively discussions.”
Kristi Ziegler, Campus Services Coordinator, said her experience in the training sessions were enlightening.
“It truly made me reflect on how I behave and react to others and what I can do differently to be more positive and open,” Ziegler said. “I would recommend this training to others. Even if one feels they cannot state everything they feel, it does provide general knowledge and information about diverse groups that one has to learn something.”
Karen Dunbar, who serves as an Admissions and Advising Coordinator for the Department of Education at the Rochester campus, said she would recommend the training to anyone.
“I think this is a topic that we can never learn too much about,” she said. “I think that it brought our staff closer together and helped us to embrace inclusion and diversity in our mission, values and principles.”
Kay Hocker, Executive Director of the Diversity Council, said it was an excellent experience for her staff and volunteers to work with WSU-Rochester.
“The Diversity Council found that working with WSU Rochester staff was an engaging, enjoyable and pleasantly rigorous experience. We were learners as well as WSU – we thank you for the opportunity to work with such dedicated and compassionate people,” Hocker said.
One of the ways in which the Diversity Council presenters proceeded with the training was to have an intent and impact conversation for each of the topics that were discussed through real-world examples of interactions between people faced with issues about diversity and inclusion. The intent and impact discussions had a big impact on the WSU-Rochester group.
“The workshops helped us recognize that often what we say or mean to say is not the same as how our comments are received or interpreted by others, and often that communication issue is at the heart of our differences or problems,” Johnson observed in reference to the intent/impact training aspect. “There are many differences in how each of us views or feels about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is not simple, or black and white, or right and wrong. Many of these issues involve strong feelings and varying experiences that increase complexity and challenge us every day.”
Added Ziegler: “The intent/impact concept is well established in my mind.”
Johnson plans to provide more diversity sessions in the future, with a focus on attracting more faculty participants since most of the training sessions were populated by Rochester staff.
“The faculty perspective and experience can be very different from staff and the faculty input at our workshop sessions provided additional views and experiences for us to consider,” Johnson said. “I believe we accomplished our initial goals to a great degree. The investment was very worthwhile, but we still have work to do in this area.”