Have you ever been hurt by another’s words? Have you ever been so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you say nothing at all? Those were two questions posed by Dr. Maura Cullen, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on issues of diversity and inclusion, as she spoke to the Westminster community during an all-school Diversity Day Jan. 27.
Throughout the day, students and faculty participated in activities related to the powerful impact of our words and actions, the intersectionality of self-identities and social groups, and the compassionate ways to connect with others in order to foster an inclusive community.
The day started with faculty attending a presentation by Cullen in Werner Centennial Center. After this, she gave an hourlong talk to students and faculty about how people see each other and have a natural tendency to categorize one another. She spoke about how it takes effort to break away from categorization, but when people do, they are better able to be there for each other and gain a wider view of the variety of experiences of others.
Cullen said the current generation is on the right track, with statistics showing young people having a high rate of volunteerism and more concern with doing good than doing well. She pointed out that it is inevitable that people will say or do the wrong thing sometimes. When this happens, she encouraged students to correct their mistakes, have a conversation and avoid similar missteps. Cullen also emphasized how students should not let their fear of making mistakes silence them. “You gotta speak up,” she said. “Show up for one another.”
In addition to Cullen’s presentation, students saw a video, participated in a question-and-answer session, and attended breakout groups. While the Third Formers and Fourth Formers focused on topics like their social identity wheels and the cultural iceberg during their small-group discussions, Fifth Formers and Sixth Formers selected from a list of offerings, such as Let’s Talk About the “F” Word: Feminism, How to Address Someone Whose Statement Stung, Learning Differences: What are They?, Practicing Self-care: Be Calm in Your Heart Amidst the Chaos, Powerful Dynamics: Understanding and Acknowledging Privilege, Acts of Kindness, and Growing Up in a Divorced Household.
In the afternoon, after viewing the 2015 documentary film “The Mask You Live In,” which explores how the definition of masculinity affects boys, men and society at large, students ended the day within their advisory groups to discuss the movie and debrief about Diversity Day.
Cullen has more than 30 years of experience as a trainer and keynote speaker. She received her doctorate in social justice and diversity education from the University of Massachusetts and is a founding faculty member of the Social Justice Training Institute and author of “35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say.”
Director of Multicultural Affairs Lisa McGrath organized the day with the help of faculty presenters and students who are Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Facilitators.