In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel are joined by Rachel Sumner Ph.D. '15 and Stephen Kim MA, Ph.D. '20, colleagues with the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) at Cornell, for a conversation about the project and how it has influenced communicating across differences for over a decade at the university.
IDP first came to Cornell in 2012 as a semester-long course for undergraduate students and provided the opportunity to practice intergroup dialogue. The course aimed to bring students together across differences in social identity, allowing them to learn and practice dialogue skills in the classroom and with peer facilitators. IDP has since evolved to engage the entire Cornell community, expanding its learning opportunities to include graduate students, postdoctoral students, staff and faculty.
Sumner and Kim were first introduced to IDP when they participated in the project as graduate students at Cornell. They have since transitioned into full-time roles – Sumner is an associate director, and Kim is a curriculum specialist. Both jumped at the opportunity to transform their positive experiences with the program to help others achieve the same.
“I found it so fulfilling,” Kim said. “It was a space where I could push myself and undergraduate students to think more broadly about who they were, how they relate to the world and how they’re moving through a world enmeshed in history, narratives and power differences. We were pushing ourselves to think about that complexity and trying not to make it more simplistic than it was. I like that my job pushes me to continue doing that.”
One of the key components of IDP is that it fosters the idea of “co-learning.” Across all of its programming, IDP practices peer facilitation instead of instruction with the hopes of every participant showing up as both a teacher and learner.
“We want to empower people to engage in critical dialogue, communicate with intentionality and with the goal of really understanding each other and doing so in a way that acknowledges differences. We want to give people the skills, capacities and knowledge to engage in dialogue that will connect people, learn more about social identities and make change,” Sumner said.
With the goal of creating an inclusive campus and world with more equity, dignity and respect, IDP is a critical tool for understanding and engaging with this year’s theme—freedom of expression.
“I'm challenging myself and others to think about what happens if we think about the freedom to express and the freedom to listen together,” Kim said. “This gets back to one of the core functions of dialogue, which is being able to understand others and wanting them to understand me. And so, I'm trying to push myself to think about how it's not just about whoever is speaking, it's also about who's listening. What do I want freedom for both to look like? That means that it's going to be some kind of negotiation.”
Tune in to hear more about Rachel and Stephen’s journeys at Cornell and how IDP is creating community across campus in Episode 76: Dialoguing through Differences. Visit https://diversity.cornell.edu/iepodcast to access the episode and transcript.
ABOUT THE INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE PODCAST
Join Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel from the Department of Inclusion and Belonging for a bi-weekly podcast series where they explore various topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at work. During each episode's interview, they provide a platform for campus colleagues in various roles to share their lived experiences, thoughts and ideas around how to create cultures of belonging, especially in the workplace. You can listen to this podcast on your phone, at your desk, on your way to work, while you are taking a break, even while you get ready for bed!
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