Interactive experiences on the “Check Your Blind Spots” bus tour include a phone bank, “Wake Up Call: Listen to Someone Else’s Reality.”

Bus exhibit offers exercises in recognizing unconscious bias

A traveling interactive exhibit designed to help community members explore the nuances of unconscious bias is coming to campus Monday, Sept. 16.

The Check Your Blind Spots bus comes to Cornell Sept. 16, with learning experiences geared to mitigating unconscious bias.

The Check Your Blind Spots bus tour will make a stop on the Arts Quad from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and is open to the Cornell and greater Ithaca communities. The five- to 20-minute experience is interactive and immersive, using virtual reality and gaming technology to give participants insight into unconscious biases people may encounter on a daily basis, and to help mitigate them through awareness.

The tour, according to its sponsors, aims to help “people to better recognize and acknowledge blind spots and start meaningful conversations about how to be more inclusive on campus and in the community.” Videos on the learning experience for students and the workforce are available online.

“It’s engaging, interactive and fun. It’s a nice complement to the various lectures and workshops offered on campus,” said Angela Winfield, J.D. ’08, associate vice president for inclusion and workforce diversity at Cornell. “This can be a difficult and challenging topic, and we often keep it at a conceptual, abstract level. This makes it concrete.”

Winfield said that she and Allan Bishop, associate vice president for human resources, had the opportunity to walk through the bus early this year at a conference, and found the experience fun, engaging and eye-opening.

“You walk onto the front of the bus, the first thing you encounter are telephones. You pick up a phone and you hear a conversation between a landlord and tenant,” Winfield said. “In one experience, you are watching a workplace meeting going on, and you can click through and identify when there was a bias or not.

Tech-enabled stations on the bus tour include virtual reality experiences of different individuals.

“There’s a virtual reality exercise that puts you in the shoes of a person who’s different from you,” she said. “Another … asks you a few questions about your network, and gives you a graphic on how diverse your inner and outer circles are or not.”

The bus tour will visit 100 locations this year and is an initiative of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, a business group driving change at the executive level to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Earlier this year, President Martha E. Pollack joined the more than 700 CEOs of leading companies and organizations who have signed pledges of commitment to CEO Action.

Individuals are invited to take The I Act On Pledge, either during the event or via, and commit to everyday actions to help check personal biases and drive inclusive behaviors.

The bus tour is “continuing the conversation on campus about unconscious bias,” Winfield said. At the Inclusive Excellence Summit held on campus in June, she announced a new framework for diversity, equity and inclusion at the university, Belonging at Cornell, which will formally launch later this semester as an evolution of the Toward New Destinations initiative.

The bus tour’s visit to Cornell is co-sponsored by the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, the Office of Human Resources, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

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Abby Butler