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One America - Conversations on Race

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One America

Program: Conversations on Race, South Bend, IN
Contact(s): Charlotte D. Pfeifer, Director, Office of Campus Diversity: (219) 237-6536
Purpose: To establish a process whereby safe and engaging discussions on race can take place by people from different backgrounds

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Office of Campus Diversity at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) serves the university by supporting underrepresented students, faculty and staff. The office facilitates workshops, brings in speakers and organizes development opportunities for the purpose of creating and encouraging a climate that is hospitable to all who come to learn and work at IUSB. As an outgrowth of the above work and as a result of President Clinton's call for a national dialogue on race, the Office of Campus Diversity was inspired to have a dialogue on race at IUSB. After six months of planning, a committee made up of IUSB faculty, staff and students, alumni and community members, with the support of a major sponsor, held a program called Conversations on Race, on November 14, 1997. The dialogue was designed to provide a place and a process of safely allowing people from different backgrounds to discuss issues pertaining to race.

Program Operations

The day-long event consisted of 65 different, small group conversations discussing a variety of subjects pertaining to race. The groups were facilitated by a wide range of people and groups from the university, community and other local colleges. Each group, consisting of 8-10 people, discussed issues of race and housing, race in the workplace, race and faith, race and self-identification and race in the classroom. After the conversations, the day culminated with a reception introducing Harvard University professor Cornel West, who delivered a lecture followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

More than 1,000 people attended the entire program, making it the largest single attended event in IUSB history. Conversations had full campus/community participation and a crowd of over 800 people for Dr. West's lecture. The South Bend Tribune, the local newspaper, used the event as diversity training for its employees, enhancing their knowledge on diversity issues and increasing their communication skills. Several of IUSB's neighboring universities and local groups developed their own conversation programs modeled after the Conversations on Race program. The planning committee for Conversations agreed to stay together as a permanent group to address all areas pertinent to diversity on the campus. As a result of the success of the program, the organizers of the program have institutionalized Conversations on Race and will have one every year. The second program is planned for November 20, 1998, with the emphasis on Latinos. The committee also is planning a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration from Sept 15-Oct 15, 1998.

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