Encourage the creation of “brave spaces” – facilitated opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage in courageous conversations about social identity. The Bentley Brave campus-wide initiative was launched in 2016 focused on providing spaces for and building capacity of community members to engage in open, honest, and direct conversations about social identity, which are a crucial catalyst for our cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal development. The initiative includes dialog groups for students, faculty and staff, all-campus events and programs, and conversation spaces following community reads and film presentations. More than 600 members of the Bentley community participated in a Bentley Brave event during the first year.
The Bentley Brave Dialog Groups were created to increase the comfort and ability of faculty and staff to engage in difficult conversations about social identity through a facilitated semester-long dialog experience. Designed as a professional development program focused on diversity, the curriculum allows participants to develop six essential skills necessary for effective dialog through the exploration of three core concepts related to diversity and inclusion. Sessions were structured so group members could identify and reflect on the cognitive, emotional, and physical aspects of engaging in dialog. These skills and concepts provided the foundation for participants to develop a practice of dialog that was reinforced during each meeting.
Nine members of the Bentley faculty and staff joined the initial group and participated in five sessions. Data collected from participants at the beginning and conclusion of the group revealed a 100% increase in the number of participants who felt comfortable engaging in conversations about difference at Bentley (44% - 88%), and equally significant increases in their level of proficiency with the essential skills as well as their level of understanding of the three diversity concepts. Two new groups will be launched in the fall of 2017.
For over 100 years, Bentley University has been an institution dedicated to preparing the leaders of tomorrow. On our campus, two crucial elements of that preparation are: (1) creating a community of individuals with many diverse identities, and (2) sustaining an atmosphere of inclusion on campus, where everyone feels they belong and their unique identities are celebrated. Since joining the university as its eighth president, I’ve been proud to see the many ways differences are not only supported, but celebrated throughout our community. The recognition that every individual holds a unique perspective on the world is a foundational assumption of many academic disciplines and helps each of us to embrace new ideas. At Bentley, we have a longstanding tradition of embracing difference, and we are always looking at how we can encourage one another to improve. I’m proud of the work of our community and am thankful that Bentley is a place of both acceptance of diverse identities and advocacy for those who are often excluded.