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Virginia Tech Goes #Unfinished
Virginia Tech Goes #Unfinished

Diversity initiative gets Hokies talking about identity and difference

By Selene San Felice


Laura Copan



As Virginia Tech President Tim Sands reflected on the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the divisive campaign season, he had a revelation: People across the country had failed to listen to and empathize with each other, and he did not want this atmosphere to take root at the university.

"Why could we not have pulled aside our neighbor and asked, ‘Why are you distressed? Tell me about your history, your values, and your lived experience. What can I do for you?'" Sands wrote in a statement to the Hokie community. He invited people to participate in #VTUnfinished, an initiative launched by InclusiveVT in October 2016 to facilitate conversations about issues of identity and difference.

Attendees of the #VTUnfinished workshop and five discussion sessions said the program provided new insights and strategies for tackling diversity issues, introduced them to community members they could learn from, and encouraged them to think critically and speak comfortably about inclusion. Social media conversations on the #VTUnfinished hashtag also played an important role in furthering campus dialogue.

Following the fall program, InclusiveVT offered campus units and student organizations the opportunity to collaborate and apply for cross-organizational grants of up to $500, funded by the Office for Inclusion and Diversity and the Hokie Parents Fund. The goal? To promote positive interactions among students of varying backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. Organizations including the Women's Center, Africana Studies program, student-run campus radio station, and university library sponsored a monthly celebration of hip-hop. In March 2017, the Women's Alliance, the Black Caucus, and Black Graduate Student Organization held "A Seat at the Table and a Microphone," a forum on the experiences of working women of color.

"By having individuals come up with programming, we hope members of our community will feel empowered to talk about identity and difference without the need for us to facilitate," says Laura Copan, marketing coordinator for Tech's Office for Inclusion and Diversity. "[We want] to put the power in the hands of individuals."

About the Author Selene San Felice

Selene San Felice is a Currents 2017 editorial intern.

 

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