The Student Affairs program, On Common Grounds . . . from introspection to action, is relatively new, but it has already won a divisional STAR Award for promotion of diversity as well as consistent praise from participants.
Co-chairs Danielle Miller-Schuster and Arlene Hosea, along with their committee of Rick Lewis, Dave Bentlin, Emily James, Angela Davenport, Erin Pearce, Dianne Kinney, Susan Dudolski and Lisa Floyd, initiated the concept of inviting a group of alumni, students and staff to a discussion hour following an on-campus event. Last year, the On Common Grounds committee hosted 88 participants at the Martin Luther King, Jr. dinner featuring Danny Glover and Felix Justice performing a dialogue as Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes and a smaller group for the fall semester Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire program.
“It is truly hard to convey how powerful that evening was,” said participant Andy Novinska. “While the Danny Glover and Felix Justice Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner was by itself an event to behold, the dialogue and sharing that followed in the On Common Grounds program truly generated a greater depth of introspection. The sharing of poetry/spoken word, dramatic readings and personal testimonies all helped to bring about a night of honesty and openness about social justice and the different yet common threads that hold all of us together.“
“We not only sat with people of different ages and different careers, we also made friends with people of different backgrounds and cultures,” said participant Robert Olivieri. “I feel strongly that the people I met are not only going to talk about today’s problems, but act on them. I know that I left the night with the intention of not only communicating about the global world issue, but acting on it.”
“Grouping alumni, current students and faculty/staff together for an evening was pivotal, at our table, in providing an informed respect for differences,” said participant Pamela Cooper. “The alumni, having travelled globally, were instrumental in providing the students with what it’s like to be engaged in a global society.”
The next On Common Grounds event is An Evening with Soledad O’Brien. Another group of 88 participants will then discuss the role of media in today’s society. Miller-Schuster said the committee wanted to provide a meaningful and educational experience where students, staff and alumni could question, share, learn and act. “Our committee was devoted to providing an intimate and engaging program where participants felt comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas and experiences,” she said.
“The committee came together week after week because of their commitment to celebrating diversity. The events are the beginnings of new relationships, new ideas and new goals for all of the participants.”