In March 2016, 20 graduate students gathered in Anthony Hall over the course of three Saturdays to discuss and reflect on a variety of topics, ranging from Unconscious Biases to Cross-Cultural Communication to Planning for Social Change. They were participating in UC Berkeley’s first Graduate Student Diversity and Inclusivity Training, sponsored by the Graduate Assembly and featuring facilitators from the Multicultural Education Project (MEP) and the Restorative Justice (RJ) Center. The goal was to develop a range of skills and tools to actively promote diversity and inclusion across campus, especially in their classrooms and departments.
Graduate Wellness Project Director Dax Vivid organized this training because they wanted to create more opportunities for graduate students to engage in climate and inclusion issues, stating that in addition to creating better environments for students, graduate students also should feel empowered to engage their peers and faculty in these conversations. They also added that this would be a great opportunity to highlight the existing resources on campus, including MEP and the RJ Center.
Each day of the series built on topics and activities discussed the previous week, with tasks for personal reflection throughout the week. Dax had worked with MEP and RJ Center staff to develop the curriculum and format for this training, taking advantage of the small group setting to build stronger relationships and trust among participants. The program was tailored for graduate students, examining the unique dynamics that graduate students experience due to their varied roles as advisees, mentors, peers, students and employees. Facilitators also built in opportunities for networking and follow-up among participants, hoping to encourage connections across departments and recognize and promote efforts of individuals.
In the words of one attendee, Dena Block, a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology:
“Graduate Student Inclusivity Training introduced me to invaluable campus resources, such as the Multicultural Education Program, the Restorative Justice Center, and many others; it allowed me to form meaningful connections with graduate students from departments other than my own; and it informed me of how I could take action toward increasing inclusivity on campus.”
The Multicultural Education Program, based in the Staff Diversity Initiatives office, works to establish a sustainable infrastructure for activities such as educational consultation and diversity workshops. They have programs to train volunteer facilitators and bring workshops to interested departments and units. For more information or to get involved, see their website.
The Restorative Justice Center emphasizes collective participation in repairing harm caused by negative behaviors of members within a community. Its work is focused on development of shared values, norms and community standards that frame relationships with one another. The RJ Center at Berkeley expresses these principles by offering a series of “community building circles” that are employed in various spaces and student organizations, including Undergraduate Student Housing, the ASUC, and the Confidential Care Advocates Office. Students are invited to join the RJ Center Graduate Students Working Group, which hosts trainings for GSIs focused on developing learning communities for their classrooms, as well as Graduate Student Circles aiming to improve department cultures and student-advisor relationships.