Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson
The Gorecki Alumni Center was at full capacity Monday night, as Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington helped close off the third day of Interfaith week; the Eye of the Hawk Lecture. With Washington as the events speaker, the audience was in the hands of a trusting leader to guide them through a discussion of diversity and inclusion.
Interfaith week is a collaborative effort amongst a collage of the University of North Dakotas organizations to promote cultural awareness. United Campus Ministries, Christus Rex, UND Health and Wellness, UND Diversity and Inclusion, Campus Ministries Association, Archives Coffee House and UND Student Organization Funding Agency are all the names associated with the week’s events.
“The Eye of the Hawk is about having a bigger view.” Washington said. “Rising above what’s kind of right there on the ground to be able to see; not just what you can see from a limited perspective, but being willing to pull back and see the bigger picture.”
Sandra Mitchell, Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, was one of the big names who assisted in organizing the event Monday night. When asked earlier that day, prior to the event, Mitchell shared very similar thoughts as to what the event stands for.
“Dr. Washington’s talk this evening is really to give a sort of a big picture view of diversity and inclusion work in the United States and how this work has changed over the past decade or so.” Mitchell said. “Those of us currently doing the work to be inclusive really think about how a lecture like Dr. Washington’s will be a great introduction the next round of the work ahead of us.”
The event was specifically held in the Gransberg room of the building. There was a second room reserved for those who could not find space inside; this proved to be quite beneficial, do to the high quantity of attendees.
As students, staff, and locals either mingled in the lounge or struggled to find seating, Washington sat alone in a seat closest to the stage. When the presentation was ready to begin, University President Kennedy stepped up to the podium to introduce Washington.
Washington decided to deliver his information on the same level as the audience he was presenting to; refusing the podium the university had set up for the event. From the time the event began until the last person had left, Washington was commanding the room.
Using his time to efficiently, Washington incorporated activities to get his audience to interact with one another as well as advance the discussion. Even though at surface level, these activities were fairly basic, they proved to be quite pivotal to what he was trying to accomplish.
“The overall purpose is we’re an educational institution, and so we should be learning about big topics.” Mitchell said. “It’s about exposure, it’s about having someone coming in who has got a national or in some cases, international view to discuss with us about these big topics.”
During his presentation Washington talked in depth about the injustice of exclusion.
“I believe people experience the most injustice within spaces they’re most disappointed.” Washington said. “Saying we value inclusion, but when discussions come up in the classroom, students fall silent; it’s the lack of capacity to engage. Where people aren’t feeling included, is where I feel we’re the most excluded.”
The energy at the Gorecki was high for the entirety of the night, because of the activities the audience participated in. Managing to keep the discussion optimistic, Washington was also able maintain focus on the overall purpose of the event.
When asked about why he feels so passionate about the topic of diversity and inclusion, Washington’s answer was met with empathy and understanding.
“Throughout my life, I’ve experienced what it’s been like to be excluded.” Washington said. “Whether it was about size, color or sexual orientation, I have those experiences to look back on.”
Like Washington, Mitchell believes work is essential part of inclusion. Without the proper work and attention it deserves, inclusion will never happen. Mitchell feels the gravity of inclusion is too important for anyone ignore.
“Equity is an important piece of the work that I do, but I’m an educator at heart.” Mitchell said. “What I believe in doing is educating everyone, not just educating a small groups.”
Washington finished off his discussion by assigning everyone in the room a task. He had asked everyone to practice what they do best while communicating with others, as well as encouraging others to participate in discussions about diversity and inclusion.
After the presentation, students stuck around for pictures with Washington. He was very grateful he had the opportunity to speak for the Eye of the Hawk lecture.
“I know that the first person who came had a great experience.” Washington said. “It my hopes that it would be a similar experience for me as well, and it was, the energy and participation was great.”
For future Interfaith week events, there are posters and flyers put up across campus, or go to www.und.edu and search “Interfaith week.”
Sheldon Hatlen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]
Students, staff and faculty hold vigil prior to “Eye of the Hawk” event to support international students