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Susan Carver Leads Cultural Intelligence Seminar

By Joe Giovannetti

Caring, Confidentiality, Candor, Commitment, and Compassion.

These are the 5 C’s that Susan Carver established during the MSLCE cohort’s first day-long seminar of the spring quarter: Cultural Intelligence and Managing Inclusion. Throughout the day, Carver would help move the students through activities that focused on the topics of assumptions, oppression, privilege, and taking action.

Carver began by breaking the students into four groups. After an ice-breaker activity that helped everyone learn unique facts about each other, students were broken down further into pairs and given an “Assumptions Worksheet.” The instructions were simple: “Without talking, look your partner directly in the eye, and fill out the worksheet.” The group was then asked to make a series of assumptions about their partner, ranging from questions about the location of their geographical upbringing to the net worth of their childhood home. Afterwards, the students shared their assumptions with each other, and were surprised to learn about the first impressions they projected to their partner.

After a lunch break, the students returned to find the chairs re-arranged in a circle. They cautiously took their seats and prepared for the next powerful activity: “Silently Standing in the Face of Oppression.” In this activity, Carver read a series of statements about oppression. Every time one of the students related to the statement, they stood up without saying a word. This gave the diverse group a new sense of perspective on the daily oppressions that affect our world.

However, where this oppression, there is also privilege. Carver led the students into the next activity to help them think about the ways in which they carry privilege. Scattered around the room were statements related to racial, gender, ability, economic, and sexual orientation privilege. Every time an individual related to one of these statements, they collected a bead. Afterwards, the students created necklaces with the amount of beads they collected to help visualize their privilege. The group reflected on their shared experience, sharing thoughts about how it felt to both create their necklaces, and to compare the length of their necklace to others in the room.

Finally, Carver helped the students practice ways to take action against cultural microaggressions in daily life through a role-play exercise. The students were paired up into groups and given a challenging real-world scenario that dealt with issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation stereotyping. Using body language and careful questioning, Carver helped students develop the skills to address these daily-life situations.

To end the day, the group reflected on their main take-aways from the day. Although certain activities stuck with individuals more than others, it was clear that the cohort left that day feeling empowered to be champions of cultural intelligence and inclusion in their everyday lives.