IT services "Be Different" activities celebrate diversity

By Cathy McVey, information technology services

it-diversity-signIn the summer of 2014 a group of IT services staff members met to discuss the division’s role in supporting Foundational Goal No. 2 of the Miami 2020 plan.

Promote a culture of inclusion, integrity and collaboration that deepens understanding and embraces intercultural and global experiences.

At the heart of the group’s brainstorming was the goal of supporting learning and discussion around issues of diversity. They defined diversity in a wide context, open to exploring difference as expressed in any way and launched a series of events designed to create learning, promote fellowship, provide some fun, and celebrate all the ways we can Be Different.

Walking the Freedom Summer tour brought issues of racial discrimination and society’s response to the fore. With the origins of that piece of history literally in IT’s Hoyt Hall backyard, the footsteps of those who led, taught, supported and became the Freedom Riders of the 1960s led to memories for some and discovery for others.

Does how we interact with our colleagues affirm the respect that we claim is part of our institutional values? How aware are we of the unintentional consequences of our words and actions? These can be tough discussions, but the seeds were planted in a series of Diversity Film Festivals. Short films introduced topics, and Ron Scott, associate VP for institutional diversity, led post-viewing discussions.

Responding to the film series, one IT staff member reflected, “Based on Ron's discussion, it is helpful to ask questions to clarify someone's views.  It's important not to become defensive but be open.” Another commented, “I will pay closer attention to how I ask questions that may be sensitive to staff and clients.

With the growth in the number of students from China, many IT staff realized they had little knowledge of contemporary Chinese culture. Reaching out to the Confucius Institute staff, we enjoyed a short series of lunch and learns. The impact of China’s “one child” policy and changes in the political climate were cited as factors that make it easier for young Chinese students to study abroad. Lively discussion encouraged getting all myths, assumptions and rumors on the table.

The diversity initiative spoke to how we listen, encouraged exploration of cultures through food at IT potluck events, and supported attendance at the Access for All accessible technology symposium and Safe Zone training. The group even designed T-shirts that proudly display our desire to learn and expand our virtual horizons.

Future events will continue to reinforce the value Miami places on diversity, as expressed on the Diversity and Inclusion webpage.

Miami University is deeply committed to the success of every member of the community. At Miami, our mission is to empower each student, staff and faculty member to promote and become engaged citizens who use their acquired knowledge and skills with integrity and compassion to improve the future of the community and the world.

To learn more about IT services’ diversity committee and events, check out the division’s Be Different website.