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President Sands encourages unfinished conversations on identity and difference

October 9, 2016

Lee Mun Wah
Lee Mun Wah, a renowned filmmaker and master diversity trainer, will facilitate two workshops for students, faculty, and staff on Nov. 16. A screening of his film, "If These Halls Could Talk," will occur that evening.

During his first State of the University address on Sept. 30, President Tim Sands challenged the Virginia Tech community to accelerate its efforts to become more inclusive and diverse.

“We’ve laid an excellent foundation for the establishment of inclusion and diversity as a permanent, integral part of our community through InclusiveVT,” Sands said during the speech. “InclusiveVT has become our institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence.”

While Sands praised the university community for such recent recognition as a Diversity Champion College by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, he acknowledged that Virginia Tech still has work to do. “We have to go beyond commitment to action,” Sands said.

As one of the steps moving to action, Virginia Tech will hold a series of discussions about difference and identity as part of an InclusiveVT initiative to listen, share, and learn about experiences that will lead to unfinished conversations.

Such conversations are intended to create pauses or gaps in order to help participants identify where differences lie. Different perspectives around Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day serve as an example.

Using the social media hashtag #VTUnfinished, the meetings intend to encourage students, faculty, staff, and the broader community to share their experiences, stories, questions, and apprehensions about the complicated issues of identity and differences. These conversations, designed to be a starting point, will occur in War Memorial Chapel beginning Oct. 18 at noon. A full list of conversations can be found on the InclusiveVT website.

“#VTUnfinished will build upon the Diversity.Edu module, which was ‘only a start’ as President Sands says in the introduction of those videos,” said Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity. “We want to fill War Memorial Chapel and Owens Banquet Hall with stories that break silences and start unfinished conversations.”

These meetings will start the dialogue for a series of Nov. 16 workshops and a film viewing, “If These Halls Could Talk,” facilitated by Lee Mun Wah, a renowned filmmaker, author, poet, Asian folk-teller, educator, community therapist, and master diversity trainer.

“As I said during the State of the University, we cannot live up to our motto, Ut Prosim, without intercultural competence and empathy,” Sands said. “This work will not be delegated to committees; it belongs to each one of us. I encourage every member of our community to attend these conversations and workshops.”

The Lee Mun Wah workshops will occur on Nov. 16 in Owens Banquet Hall. On that day, faculty and staff are invited to a morning workshop, entitled “Creating Community in a Diverse College Environment." Students can participate in an afternoon session, entitled “How to have a Dialogue Across Cultures.” A screening of “If These Halls Could Talk,” a 2010 film directed by Mun Wah that features 11 college students discussing campus life today, will be held in the auditorium of the Graduate Life Center at 6 p.m.

For more information about the workshops, visit the InclusiveVT website, the VTUnfinished page on Facebook, or email the office.  

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