Workshop opens the door to understanding diversity, influence and inclusion

Through increasing awareness of ourselves and others, we can better appreciate the experiences and reasoning behind the rich texture of the culture around us.

“Life is outside the doors; keep the door open so that life can flow into you or you can flow into the life!” Mehmet Murat ildan

Opening Doors is a professional development workshop based on the premise that understanding differences and ourselves is a lifelong journey. The curriculum examines the cycle of oppression, the subtleties of the dominator paradigm and the dynamics of the partnership model. I was a recent attendee of this program.

From the very beginning, the skilled facilitators established a safe and trusting environment. This climate helped the participants feel comfortable throughout the workshop, making it easier to explore the framework and common language around cultural differences, power, privilege and behavior. The framework also encouraged participants to increase their understanding of diversity by identifying and learning about their own identity groups.

Expanding upon these concepts, participants were then prepared to establish a clearer understanding of dominant positions of privilege in society, exploring their place within those dominant and oppressed positions, and most importantly, understanding how personal practices maintain and perpetuate inequalities that prevent us from reaching our own potential, most often without even being aware of it. It was emphasized that it is not until we are comfortable with our own family heritage and culture that we can begin to open the door to appreciating others cultures.

As a white female, doors opened for me during this workshop, increasing awareness of both my privilege and oppression statuses and what I can do to be an ally in my dominant identities as well as to be empowered in my excluded identity.

Since attending the workshop, I am more aware of what is occurring within groups I attend and have become more committed and intentional about behaving as an ally. Although always appreciative of the richness human diversity brings to any discussion, I am working harder to ‘seek to understand’ differing points of view – and value every role and position equally.

Kathy Castania (founder of the Opening Doors Diversity Project), Steven Humes (Health Administrator – UNC Chapel Hill) and Dionardo Pizaña (Diversity and Personnel Specialist at Michigan State University Extension) facilitated the Opening Doors workshop. For more information about the Opening Doors workshop contact Dionardo Pizaña at MSU Extension or visit the Opening Doors Diversity Project website.

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