Student dialogue program concludes first semester

Andrew Henderson

Students had the opportunity this semester to participate in WKU’s first intergroup dialogue program, Voices of Discovery. Over a six-week span, students discussed topics relating to sexuality, race, religion and gender identity.

Sasha Ross, coordinator for Bemis Lawrence Hall, launched the dialogue program in February. Ross also served as a facilitator for the sexuality group. The program’s closing and last group met on April 8. She said it can be tricky to speak about matters relating to personal identities, but had the expectations for students to come in with open minds. 

“Our best expectation was just that we would have some good dialogue and some challenging dialogue and I think that was met,” Ross said. 

Students take a test regarding their feelings on diversity before and after the program. The tests aided Ross in tracking where students began and where they felt in the end about the program and if it impacted them.

“Overwhelmingly we’re getting people saying, ‘I enjoyed the group, I got something out of it,’” she said. 

Dan Rosner, coordinator for Hugh Poland Hall, served as a co-facilitator for the gender identity group. He said roughly half of the gender group were students from the United Arab Emirates. Having them discuss their views on gender with the U.S. students was influential. 

“They were looking more for that exposure and were inquisitive about what it was like to see gender from different perspectives,” Rosner said.

He said seeing students passionate about different areas within gender exceeded his expectations. While the snow from earlier in the semester negatively affected the time of the groups, Rosner said he received positive feedback from his group, and about the overall program.

“How (students) expected to be treated, what privilege looks like between men and women and what their experiences were like I think was a large takeaway for me,” he said. 

Radcliff native and freshman Taneka Russell said she found the program to be “pretty awesome.” Russell took part in the sexual identity group. She said her expectations of the group were for everyone to be open and honest.

“Everybody is not the same, and we all come from a different background.We all have different beliefs, different opinions,” Russell said. 

Russell said she’s considered serving as a facilitator the next time the program is held. She said her facilitators were “spot on”, and the only thing she would change is to make the program longer.

Ross is due to present the data gathered from the program to Housing and Residence Life, Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility and Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer, in the coming weeks.