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Nearly 3,500 Old Dominion students received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees during four ceremonies held May 10 and 11 at ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center. Photos by Chuck Thomas/ODU

Community Engagement: ODU Hosts Diversity Dialogue Day

On Tuesday, March 8th, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and the Monarch Task Force for Inclusive Excellence hosted Diversity Dialogue Day, programming created by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC). 60 students and educators from across six high schools across the Tidewater region came together to participate in workshops focusing on "Stopping Stereotypes in Schools."

The day opened with a visit from ODU's very own Big Blue who greeted, danced, and took photos with the students as they entered the Webb Center. A representative from the Office of Admissions extended a welcome to the campus and provided information on why ODU should be their university of choice. Serving as a collaboration partner, a representative from Dominion Energy also welcomed the group and explained the importance of this type of programming to the workforce.

Led by facilitators representing Tidewater Community College, the YWCA, and ODU, students participated in activities that challenged them to think critically about their own environments and where they see stereotypes show up in their schools. While in breakout groups, students were encouraged to identify situations in which they or someone they knew had been left out, excluded, or discriminated against because of stereotypes. This led to a conversation around bystanders, upstanders, and allies, the difference between the three, and how they could create communities of upstanders and allies. At the end of the day, students came back to the North Cafe to share what they learned and to devise an action plan for their respective schools.

Two members of the Monarch Task Force for Inclusive Excellence served as group facilitators: Dr. Mitsue Shiokawa and Christina LiPuma. This task force is a group of highly skilled faculty and staff members who work together to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all aspects of the campus community. "I was impressed with the passion these students possess, the richness of their perceptions concerning stereotypes and diversity, and the ways in which they shared what actions are needed for change," remarked Dr. Shiokawa. As a former middle and high school English teacher, she felt it was important to be involved with Diversity Dialogue Day to help the youth not only identify stereotypes, but also aid in finding their voices to speak out, to share their experiences, and to brainstorm solutions.

Diversity Dialogue Day is hosted four times a year throughout various regions within the Commonwealth. Old Dominion University and VCIC have been in collaboration for over 10 years. In fact, the Fall 2022 session of Diversity Dialogue Day was held at the ODU Peninsula Center. For more information on VCIC and their programs, please visit their website: https://inclusiveva.org.

VCIC has come a long way from promoting interfaith understanding, to responding to the racial, religious, and ethnic changes throughout the Commonwealth for nearly nine decades. Their one day youth seminars, summer teacher workshops and student institutes, as well as middle and high school programming have become pivotal in forwarding their mission of "achieving success through inclusion." This organization realizes that constructive and inclusive dialogues don't just happen, but require careful planning, intentional design, and clear communication.

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