For three weeks this winter, twenty-three Berkeley graduate students from over fifteen different departments met on Saturdays to participate in an in-depth workshop on incorporating inclusivity into their academic practice, teaching, and daily lives. The workshop was the brainchild of Teresa Anderson, a graduate student in the Masters of Social Welfare program, in collaboration with Julie Shackford-Bradley, co-founder and coordinator of the Restorative Justice Center at UC Berkeley.
Anderson and her co-conveners see the workshop as filling a much-needed gap in graduate student professional development — namely, in fostering spaces for graduate students to combine holistic personal growth with professional growth. “I wanted to give students a place to develop good [real-world] skills, not just get a resumé byline,” said Anderson.
The workshop explored topics such as workplace diversity, unconscious bias, community building, navigating harm and conflict, cross-cultural communication, and accountability. For Anderson, fostering community is something she is passionate about, so she planned this workshop in order to give graduate students the opportunity to explore, reflect, and experience personal growth in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Each morning of the workshop featured different facilitators from the Multicultural Education Program at Berkeley, while the afternoons featured Anderson and Shackford-Bradley presenting Restorative Justice techniques, which are part of a system of criminal justice techniques that focus on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. Participants also practiced talking about themselves for two minutes each, and actively listened to others do the same, in an attempt to show how active listening requires focus and the ability to not interrupt others when they talk. Other activities included identifying unconscious biases while reading texts, and determining how our individual values decisively influence the way that we move through the world.
In one activity, participants used colored strings laid out in front of them to rank eight identity characteristics including: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion/spirituality, nationality and socioeconomic status. Participants discussed their personal rankings with each other and shared how these characteristics affect their lives in different ways. One participant was pleased that activities like this created a “balanced, positive and useful space, with a good mix of practical information and interactions with other people.”
The workshop provided graduate students with an intentional space for exploring their identity, and the opportunity to do so in an academic setting is relatively rare on this campus. According to Sid Reel, a facilitator of the workshop, it’s a valuable skill for graduate students’ personal growth and professional practice to “look at and recognize difference, because there is nothing prescriptive about who you will be interacting with [in your personal and professional life].”
The facilitators hope to offer this program again in the fall to another small graduate cohort, as well as providing further opportunities to departments and organizations who would like a shorter course on restorative justice and multicultural education techniques. If you are interested in holding such a workshop for your campus group, please contact Julie Shackford-Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
About the author: Maelia DuBois is a Professional Development Liaison at the Graduate Division and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History with a specialization in German history.