A Widening Welcome
To help students feel welcomed and included, Tufts will launch the Office for Intercultural and Social Identities Programs (ISIP) on March 9, during an afternoon event at the Mayer Campus Center and a dinner at Alumnae Lounge on the Medford/Somerville campus.
“Our mission is to work to ensure the inclusion and equal participation of all students within the community, particularly those with historically marginalized identities,” says Katrina Moore, who heads the office, in addition to her work as director of the Africana Center. “We are building this infrastructure based on the guiding principles of the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering that diversity and inclusion are inherent strengths and necessary for excellence, not problems to be resolved.”
“We are trying to ensure that we create an environment in the School of Arts and Sciences and Engineering in which all of our students can thrive,” says Joanne Berger-Sweeney, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “This will be achieved through a combination of efforts both inside and outside of the classroom; the combination is essential. ISIP is an important step for building a network of inclusion outside of the classroom at Tufts.”
While there are many who believe the campus climate is fine as it is, “there are other students who really struggle with it,” Moore says. ISIP will seek not just to include those students who feel on the margins of the Tufts community, but to build a more caring community. “Our goal for ISIP programs is to foster a respect for the perspectives and life experiences of all students to ensure that everyone’s perspective and experience is valued,” says Moore.
An initial effort will be a “Say Hello” campaign. “The idea is to get people who are strangers on campus to say hello,” Moore says. “It’s not about making lasting friendships—it’s about being friendly.”
Saying hello brings joy into our lives, wrote Sam Sommers, an associate professor of psychology, in a recent op-ed piece in the Tufts Daily. “Yet all too often, we don’t do it. As we walk across campus, most of us have a lot going on—around us and in our minds. You’re thinking about that impending due date or that text message you probably shouldn’t have sent. You’re listening to music through headphones …,” Sommers wrote.
Other initiatives include workshops on social justice leadership and small-group meetings called “Your Voice Matters,” which will provide opportunities for students and faculty to discuss issues “at the heart of the Tufts community,” Moore says.
“We are also focused on raising the awareness of students who may not really understand the impact that some of their actions or comments have on other students,” Moore says.
Tufts currently has six centers that serve as a nucleus for many undergraduate students: the Africana Center, the Asian-American Center, the International Center, the Latino Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center and the Women’s Center. The ISIP will collaborate with them all, and seek to reach students who have not connected with other students through these centers. “We are trying to reach those students who may be historically marginalized, and have not made that kind of connection,” Moore says. “They are embracing other identities.”
“What I am most excited about is that ISIP will be a place to consider multicultural, cross-cultural and gender and identities programs,” Berger-Sweeney says. “We are no longer asking our students to slot themselves into a single identity silo—we are a complex society, and individuals have complex and multiple identities. We welcome and support all of our students; this is just one manifestation of that support.”
ISIP will also act as a clearinghouse for university-wide intercultural events and activities. There are events on campus that students miss out on, but which would provide a greater sense of belonging, Moore says.
The ISIP will also award grants to individual students and groups to sponsor events around the issues of equality and inclusion.
For information on the ISIP launch event on Friday, March 9, go here.
More information is available at the Office for Intercultural and Social Identities Programs website; the office can be reached also at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor McNeil can be reached at email@example.com.