Every person is running a race through life, but the starting line is different for everyone. The first step toward solving the problem is to understand, as a community, that there is one.
Matthew Grimes '12 commuted from Lansingburgh to Siena on the bus. But when the bus didn't run, he would walk - several miles up the hill, often in the snow. Grimes didn't share his personal story with more than 150 Siena staff and administrators to engender sympathy - Grimes is the senior director of diversity and inclusion for one of the largest school districts in the Northeast, and he's nearly finished with his master of education from Harvard. Grimes' used his anecdote to underscore one of the central themes to his January 21 workshop - we all see the world through a lens of our own identity: race, class, sexual orientation, age, gender. Our journey through life is uniquely our own, but if we take the time to understand each other's journey, we can make Siena the inclusive community we all dream it to be.
Grimes created and facilitated a day of practice for Siena's staff that he titled: Reflecting on Our Values and Identities to Lead Boldly for Racial Justice. The three-hour workshop covered structural inequality and critical race theory, and also addressed white privilege and microaggressions. The staff also watched and read testimonials from current Siena students who have experienced racism on campus. Participants broke up into small groups and began drafting action plans to address the injustices.
The Council of Administrators, at President Gibson's request, organized the event. Diversity education programming for staff and administrators is one of the president’s eight areas requiring focus to advance meaningful progress toward strengthening the bonds of racial justice at Siena. Dr. Gibson participated in the workshop and offered opening and closing remarks.
"Matt really has a special way that provokes in us the kind of thought and conversation that's going to help us make improvements. We're committed to better living our values. The beliefs that we profess, that we talk about, that we are justifiably proud of, we're not quite matching our ideals. So that means we have work to do to create a sense of safety, and inclusion, and understanding for everybody. This kind of facilitation will help us achieve those goals."
President Chris Gibson '86, Ph.D.
"It is incredibly humbling for me to be welcomed back to campus to engage in deeply meaningful conversations that are so close to my heart. Siena is where I developed the skills and confidence to lead courageous conversations about race and other differences in our identities.
Being able to support the work Siena is doing to strengthen the bonds of racial justice across campus with former mentors, colleagues, and friends gives me a great deal of hope as we look to create a more inclusive campus for all of us."
Matthew Grimes '12