Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, Stevenson University Associate Professor Maria Wong, Ph. D, and Associate Professor Lauri Weiner, J.D., have still managed to keep the Diversity and Inclusion program active for students.
The program originated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Wong and Dr. Weiner shared a similar focus on the concept of diversity in their academic careers, inspiring them to work together and facilitate the ongoing virtual diversity discussions available for Stevenson students and staff.
As the facilitators of this program, Dr. Wong and Dr. Weiner lead open discussions via the online conferencing app, BlueJeans. The themes of the discussions are predetermined by the facilitators, and students are encouraged to share their own experiences with these topics. Dr. Wong said she often discusses her own experiences as an immigrant and a Chinese American woman during these sessions.
Weiner also spoke on the importance of shared experiences. “When we share our experiences, it provides others an opportunity to discuss their own.” She believes that sharing experiences in a group setting allows attendees to make long-lasting connections, giving them a basis for further communication and possible friendship. According to Dr. Weiner, the Diversity and Inclusion program facilitates honest and open discussions about diversity-related topics. “We want to create a space where people feel safe addressing these issues, as opposed to avoiding them,” said Dr. Weiner.
At the start of the 2020 fall semester, both professors decided to focus the first discussion on Black Lives Matter. A new topic is selected based on pertinent world events at the end of each month. For example, this month’s virtual diversity discussion focused on the upcoming election and the importance of voting.
Those interested in attending the Virtual Diversity and Inclusion discussions will need to access the “upcoming events” links via the Stevenson student portal. Here, they can see dates, time, and additional information via attached fliers.