The Wheelock faculty decided to cancel classes for a full day and evening for WheeBuild Community Day on February 28, 2017. The purpose of the day was for Wheelock students, faculty, staff, and administrators to gather together to build and strengthen our Wheelock community.
To this end, the program committee, which consisted of faculty, staff, and students, planned a full day of workshops, performances, and play activities that focused on strengthening our community. The response from the Wheelock community was impressive: throughout the day, there were more than 500 workshop attendees and 47 presenters.
The themes for the day, and guiding questions for all the sessions for the day were:
- How do we come together as a diverse community and support all members of our community?
- What are the knowledge and skills we build today toward accomplishing this?
Specifically, the programming committee asked that all sessions address one of the following areas of focus:
- How to be an upstander not a bystander
- How to get past the fear of using the wrong words; understanding and owning microaggressions and learning how to grow from mistakes
- How to listen and learn from each other’s stories of identity and difference
- How to listen for understanding and stay open without becoming defensive
- How to support people whose experiences are unfamiliar to us
- How to reach across divides of difference to connect with those who are different from us
- How to create safe/brave spaces
- How to facilitate challenging conversations
“I learned early in my career that respect and relationships are the foundation for effective work in supporting diversity and inclusion,” said Lenette Azzi-Lessing, Professor of Social Work and a member of the WheeBuild Planning Committee. “As the planning committee intended, Wheebuild Community Day provided students, staff, and faculty with opportunities for demonstrating mutual respect and building and strengthening interpersonal relationships. The new insights and honest conversations that took place bode well for the ongoing work of building an effective inclusive community.”
One of the day’s projects was to film participants talking about their WheeBuild experience. Here are some of the thoughts that were captured:
“The decision to cancel classes at Wheelock to create a day for dialogue, learning and reflection was unprecedented,” said Barbara Rosenquest, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, and a member of the WheeBuild Planning Committee. “It demonstrated our commitment to a college environment that seeks a deep awareness and respectful experience that are essential in a diverse college community. Of equal importance as the learning that took place in WheeBuild workshops was the collaboration among faculty, students, and administrative staff to plan, facilitate, and evaluate the day. Having the time to sit side-by-side to listen, engage in honest dialogue, and productively critique our daily engagement was not viewed as a one day luxury. It was part of what is an ongoing partnership among individuals with differences in gender identification, home language, religious beliefs, and race to continually enhance our knowledge, relationships, and response to living together in a our community.”