January 24, 2017- Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, President & Founder of the Washington Consulting Group, led an interactive workshop at JWU Providence spreading his message of creating a more inclusive community in the world. Four students responded by blogging about this moving experience.
The Power of Discomfort
Dr. Washington facilitated a workshop that I will never forget. The friendships that we were able to build in a couple of hours were truly remarkable. Being inside a room where Dr. Washington encouraged us all to discuss how we really feel about discrimination was, at first, uncomfortable. But, due to the great willingness from all students, that feeling quickly vanished.
Dr. Washington taught us to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable and to actually place ourselves in situations that will sometimes cause conflicts because those conflicts may eventually lead to successful relationships. He opened our eyes to see the importance of holding the value of inclusion but also holding onto the reality of exclusion. Even though a great percentage of people want our community to be inclusive, we have to understand that this is not always the case. Therefore, as leaders we must recognize our own triggers so that we may engage effectively in a diverse community.
Diversity is Present Forever
When you walk into a room for the first time, surrounded by a group of people, you become nervous and even scared. However, when you see someone you know walk in, you wave them over to sit by you and chat until the presentation will begin. This is how the night began for me, yet when Dr. Washington began his speech, he made the group stand away from our close peers and branch out to someone new. After a few quick conversations, I was no longer nervous.
The group of students that gathered were leaders of JWU Providence, fraternities, sororities, organizations, student government and athletics. We are the people that are involved in so many events that we use our fingers and toes to count them all. Yet we all came to this meeting, and the diversity slipped out the doors. We were one community.
We learned that you can't learn from a lecture, you must practice what you preach to be successful. Having a simple conversation with someone is practicing the way you speak and understand others. Malcolm X once said, “We can’t teach what we don’t know, we can’t lead where we won’t go.”
Diversity will always be around, but we are the generation who will change the world.
It's Okay to Fail
Attending Dr. Washington’s workshop on diversity was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The #1 takeaway was to just be comfortable being uncomfortable. Dr. Washington spoke about how with diversity (or with anything in life) it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to not know what to say at times because these are opportunities to learn.
Conversations about diversity spawn from simply getting to know someone – the reason why people are so unenthusiastic about talking about diversity is because they think it’s all about race when, in reality, there are numerous concepts with diversity such as gender, religion andsocio-economic status. So, Dr. Washington states that when talking about any diversity, just getting to know the person you’re talking to creates a better understanding of them which leads to acceptance instead of letting false biases, stereotypes or other prejudices get in the way.
My favorite part of this workshop was learning about the 4 pillars of leadership and diversity:
- Awareness of self
- Awareness of others
- Courageous actions
To identify how I fit into each category and to ask, “What am I good at and what do I need to work on?” really helped me self-evaluate my own stance with diversity topics and the conversations associated with them.
Expand Comfort Zones
Some have the ability to sing, dance or act. Others can sketch intricately detailed images of their surroundings. But some people have the capability to bring hundreds of people across different races, genders and sexualities together in just a few short hours.
Dr. Washington held a powerful workshop that provided students the opportunity to hone in on their communication and interpersonal connection skills. Before the workshop began, Dr. Washington asked all of the students to introduce themselves to various members of the crowd, encouraging all participants to expand their comfort zones and sit next to someone new for the duration of the program.
For the remainder of the 2-hour program, he created deep conversation with students on topics such as diversity, reality and how the 4 pillars of leadership and diversity can help to strengthen leadership and communication skills.
During his closing statements, Dr. Washington asked students to reflect on their prejudices and judgments when they communicate so that they can have impactful conversations in and out of the work.
This leadership workshop was co-sponsored by BRIDGE, Student Involvement & Leadership, Residential Life, and the Faculty Center for Academic Excellence & Innovation.