The Council of Administrators hosted its annual diversity education workshop for staff and administrators on August 31. Laura Quiros, Ph.D., LMSW, – an education, author, and trainer – facilitated the workshop for nearly 100 community members.
The 90-minute workshop was held in Roger Bacon, but that space wasn't always a science building on a college campus. Dr. Quiros began the session with a land acknowledgement.
"We would like to acknowledge our neighboring indigenous nations. Without them, we would not have access to this gathering and to this dialogue. We take this opportunity to thank and honor the original caretakers of this land."
The land acknowledgement helped to frame a conversation about empathy, active listening, and the embrace of discomfort. Dr. Quiros – a Latina and Jewish woman of color – spoke openly about her life and background and created a space for staff and administrators to share their own privileges and circumstances with others. As one community member shared with the group:
"I've worked side-by-side with this person for several years and she's one of my closest friends. But in the past 10 minutes, I've learned important things about her life that I had never known."
Dr. Quiros also talked about building safety within a community, which is much more intentional than simply calling an area a "safe space." She described social justice as a vision, a practice, a process, and a journey.
"We can all lean into relationships and actively seek and create a community of allies, create space to dialogue where we listen deeply to one another, share in the telling of stories, honor curiosity, welcome vulnerability and prioritize collaboration."
Following the 90-minute workshop, Dr. Quiros held a series of 30-minute breakout sessions with representatives from various campus departments. The participants were charged with bringing their lessons back to their colleagues to continue this important work throughout the year.
Dr. Quiros is an associate professor of social work and child advocacy at Montclair State University.
Workshop participants were asked to complete a post-event assessment. The anonymous responses will be used by the Council of Administrators to inform future programming. Here are a few of the responses:
"Dr. Quiros presented the information and training points in a way that came across not as guilt for our past, but for a way to move forward together, in a cohesive team to better the Siena community, ourselves, and our homes."
"My biggest takeaway would be the importance to share personal stories and experiences about yourself when dealing with others to help create a safer environment for people to open up and feel trust. Secondly, the importance to provide an environment where people can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas for change."
"The idea of embodiment is so important – not just thinking through my head but fostering compassion (mind, body, heart). Also, Dr. Quiros shared the powerful phrase, curiosity over judgement."