Tolerance and Diversity Focus of Annual Symposium
April 1, 2011 – Engaging diversity requires becoming uncomfortable, a psychology professor said at the second annual Doyle Symposium on Engaging Difference April 1.
“You need to realize what it actually feels like to be faced with those situations,” said Yulia Chentsova Dutton, a Doyle Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of psychology during a panel discussion. "You need to imagine a cultural practice or a belief that maybe to some extent is … deeply uncomfortable.”
The symposium is a part of the Doyle Initiative, designed to increase the university’s commitment to tolerance and diversity.
The initiative, a collaboration of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and Georgetown College, is made possible by a generous gift from alumnus and board of directors member William J. Doyle (C’72).
“To engage difference out in the world – the stakes might be higher, the barriers might be greater, partial misunderstandings might be more profound,” observed Randy Bass, executive director of CNDLS and assistant provost for teaching and learning initiatives.
Caleb Pitters (SFS’97), a first generation Cuban-American who is now a director with Credit Suisse’s U.S. corporate bond trading desk, emphasized the importance speaking up as a way for students and people of diverse backgrounds to make a place for themselves in the majority.
In the classroom, professors should encourage students to speak up and not let them hide, Pitters said.
Ricardo Ortiz, an associate professor of English, spoke about growing up as a Cuban-American.
"I was really quiet – even in college,” said Ortiz, who did his undergraduate work at Stanford before getting his Ph.D. from the University of California.
He said it took him a while to find his voice and feel comfortable as a minority student.
“That struggle [was] there from the very beginning,” he said. “I see it in my students at Georgetown.”
The professor said he talks about such struggles in some of the classes he teaches.
Paper vs. Practice
Another theme of the symposium was the difference between talking about engaging diversity and actually creating a culture of diverse voices and influences.
There are many steps to take in addressing diversity, not only in academia but also in the workplace, said Ireene Leoncio (G’12). But she added that the symposium is a good first step.
“[Resolving] the gap between what is on paper and what is in reality is not a new concept,” the graduate student explained. “How we put it into practice is the more difficult [part].”