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A multi-unit group supporting Cornell University's institutional diversity planning initiative.

Diversity training reaches all DFA and CIT staff

“I feel like people think I’m a dinosaur and that I’m just counting the days till retirement.”

“People don’t realize that their jokes hurt, that they’re making fun of people I love.”

“I never talk about my views at work. If you’re not a liberal, you’re not worth listening to.”

“When I have something to say, I’m direct and to the point. Where I work, that’s apparently the same thing as being intimidating.”

“I wonder if I’ll ever be part of this team. Most of the time, I don’t have a clue what anyone is talking about, because it’s people I don’t know or things that happened before I got here.”

Everyone in DFA and CIT (511 people) wrestled with scenarios like these, presented by the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble as part of the FY14 DFA and CIT Diversity Training in March and April. Developed by CITE based on interviews with DFA and CIT staff, the training used live actors to present eight vignettes touching on diverse experiences that could result in exclusion and inclusion of colleagues.

The audience then discussed what resonated with them. Among the topics raised were:

  • respect and dignity
  • being accepted when you are not “like-minded” to members in your group
  • managing feelings as you learn about others (such as empathy, sadness, compassion, surprise, annoyance)
  • making assumptions
  • understanding others and our interdependence
  • feeling marginalized when budgets are not sufficient to allow the work to be done effectively
  • unintended consequences
  • understanding that everyone has a “story”
  • recognizing that not everyone wants to engage
  • having self-awareness

The choice of six training sessions enabled everyone to participate in one-on-one as well as group discussion. Over 92% of the participants expressed overwhelming satisfaction with their session, and over 85% said they better understand why diversity matters in their work. A handout suggesting good strategies and tips (PDF, 109 KB) for being inclusive and watching out for unconscious bias, perception, and assumption.

The DFA and CIT Diversity Committee is currently investigating options for FY15 training, which we hope will be equally as successful. Thanks to everyone for your participation.

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