Valparaiso University’s Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP), which works to create a more inclusive environment on campus, will be introducing a five-part seminar series called Creating and Nurturing Inclusivity (CANI). CANI was created by Janelle White, director of multicultural programs, Stacey Miller, associate provost for inclusion and retention and Byron Martin, executive director of intercultural and international engagement.
This was done in conjunction with The Civic Reflection Initiative, a network of students from the Institute for Leadership and Service that encourages students, faculty, and alumni to focus on how to practice reflection of ourselves and our society using discussion. The series will be working to answer the question, “How can I work to create and nurture an effective culture of inclusion on the Valpo Campus?”
Students in attendance are encouraged to think about how to gather more diverse relationships and communities while attending Valparaiso University, and to intentionally diversify their communities and relationships in order to market themselves more globally and to give themselves the ability to connect with a larger variety of people and cultures.
In an email advocating for their sessions, the OMP wrote that “As we continue to work as a community to respond to the ambiguous times we face, it is more important now than ever that we strengthen our resolve as a community dedicated to equity and justice. This series will give our community a shared language around inclusivity as we traverse times that lend itself to being individualistic instead of collective.”
CANI begins with a two-hour prerequisite session, after which you can choose to attend any of the four available additional sessions. These sessions are ongoing, having begun Aug. 24, and are currently scheduled to run through Oct. 30.
The first session will work to create a shared language around the terms connected to inclusivity and is the cornerstone of understanding the subsequent training. These sessions cover topics like “Privilege and my place in the world” and“Who am I? Who are You? Why does it matter?”
Those interested must book their seats online and will attend the sessions through Zoom.
“The idea is that we are creating a shared language around basic terms that are used every day, but also having a better understanding of how our own experiences, the lens in which we view the world, really impacts the relationships we do and do not make in our day-to-day lives,” White said. “So with the CANI training, our hope is that people who participate in this training will be able to have a clear understanding of the lens that they have and how... it potentially disrupts some of the biases that they may have, or how does it help them to support other people with marginalized identities around them in the different settings that they exist in."
White went on to list some examples of how she would like to see that accomplished, with faculty using more varied examples in their education materials, as well as using a wider variety of people in psychology and sociology research studies. For students however, she suggests a greater involvement in areas with diverse groups, by participating in events that they might be unfamiliar with, or that they might not typically otherwise attend.
Participants of the CANI series are encouraged to practice a mindful approach to the sessions through introspection and to be prepared to learn how our perspectives can impact the relationships we make, or more importantly, relationships we do not make, how to identify and unlearn bias, as well as how to support the marginalized in our lives every day.
Moreover, the goal of the CANI series is for as many people as possible to think about what they can do to create a more inclusive environment.
“The biggest take away I could hope for is that everyone is understanding of how their experiences play into how they view the world around them, which then impact how they interact with people who are different from them,” said White. “So hopefully by having that understanding they’ll be able to be intentional with creating circumstances and creating relationships or professional development opportunities or research opportunities etcetera [and] to be able to engage with people in a more inclusive … accepting manner of everyone’s identity and what they bring to the table.”