Annual Day of Dialogue & Action explores university commitment to diversity and inclusion

Writer, filmmaker Aisha Sultan to present keynote address

The Washington University in St. Louis community will come together for the sixth consecutive year for the annual Day of Dialogue & Action.

The conference will include two full days of talks, panel discussions and workshops that will give participants an opportunity to learn about and engage with ongoing efforts to improve university culture and climate.

The mid-February event, initially sparked by the Ferguson uprising in 2014, has evolved into an annual opportunity for students, faculty and staff to come together to explore our shared core and aspirational values and to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion — and our willingness to do the hard work to get there.

“It begins with a brutally honest and uncomfortable look inward — examining how our own biases play out in our lives, and how we begin to challenge both what we hear around us and within ourselves,” said Aisha Sultan, a writer, filmmaker and podcaster who will serve as keynote speaker. “The hardest thing to do is to listen — without defending, dismissing or minimizing.”

Nationally syndicated columnist and filmmaker Aisha Sultan is the keynote speaker for Day of Dialogue & Action Feb. 18-19.

Sultan is a nationally syndicated, award-winning columnist who tells stories of families, race relations and being a Muslim mom in the heart of the Midwest. Her keynote session, “Other People: Unpacking our Assumptions & Learning How to Speak Up,” begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus, anchored by a screening of her short film, “Other People.”

Sultan’s appearance is the culmination of a day of programming on the Medical Campus — a first for the Day of Dialogue & Action. Events highlighted for Tuesday, Feb. 18, all of which will be held at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus unless otherwise noted, include:

  • 8:30 a.m. – Continental breakfast with time to explore a timeline narrating the history of the desegregation of the Washington University Medical Campus. Dialogue circles to discuss the timeline will happen throughout the day.
  • 9 a.m. – A session on mindfulness — new to the Day of Dialogue & Action — designed to set the tone for the discussions from the get-go and provide a restorative set of tools that support productive dialogue and action throughout the first day and beyond.
  • 10 a.m. – “Action Item: Move From Bystander to Upstander.” Sherree Wilson, associate vice chancellor and associate dean, will present a session that will introduce techniques and skills for becoming an effective upstander.
  • Noon – A working lunch and panel discussion with Ebony Carter, MD, and Laurie Punch, MD, of the School of Medicine, and representatives from The Integrated Health Network and Alive and Well STL, a group working to make St. Louis a trauma-informed city, on “Changing the Question: Why We All Need to Be Trauma Informed.”
  • 3 p.m. – The third engagement session, “Moving From Dialogue To Action,” will include panelists from Paraquad, Metro Trans Umbrella Group, (MTUG) and the university’s Collaboration on Race, Inequality, and Social Mobility in America, who will share how they as individuals are actively working to make a more equitable and inclusive campus and St. Louis community.

Other events of the day include opportunities for breakout sessions and small-group engagement sessions on topics such as sexual violence prevention and the history of desegregation on the Medical Campus, among others.

Mindfulness a powerful tool in inclusion work

Sit down. Remove off your coat. Take a breath. And listen as mindfulness expert Meg Krejci strikes a chime.

What do you hear? How do you feel? Where is your mind?

So will begin “Mindfulness: Disrupting Biases with Compassion and Inspiring Positive Change,” a unique Day of Dialogue & Action session offered on each campus, where participants will learn mindfulness skills and explore how mindfulness can lead to compassion.

The sessions, led by Human Resources mindfulness expert Meg Krajci, will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center at the School of Medicine, and at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Brown Lounge on the Danforth Campus.

Read more about these unique sessions here.

The final session of the first day, Sultan’s keynote, film screening and panel discussion, begins at 6 p.m. with opening remarks by Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. David Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and the George and Carol Bauer Dean of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will introduce Sultan.

Following the screening of her new film, “Other People,” a panel discussion will take place with Sultan that includes Braveheart Gillani, a master of social work student at the Brown School; James Zerkel, a library assistant in the Bernard Becker Medical Library; Gmerice Hammond, MD, a cardiologist and health-care policy researcher at the School of Medicine; and Brown School alumna Bethany Johnson-Javois, chief executive officer of St. Louis Integrated Health Network and former managing director of the Ferguson Commission. The event wraps up with a Q&A, with Wilson making closing remarks.

Highlights for Wednesday, Feb. 19, all of which will be held at Hillman Hall on the Danforth Campus, unless otherwise noted, include:

  • 9 a.m. – Welcome and introduction by Nicole Hudson, assistant vice chancellor at the Academy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • 9:15 a.m. – The first of this day’s dialogue sessions features Adrienne D. Davis, vice provost, the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity. Davis will give a talk titled “What I Saw at the Diversity Revolution: Reflections on a Decade of Diversity Work in Higher Ed.”
  • 9:45 a.m. – Dialogue session No. 2, a panel discussion on the “Divided City.” The Divided City Initiative, a joint project of the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, puts humanities scholars into productive interdisciplinary dialogue with architects, urban designers and other scholars to address issues of segregation.
  • 12:25 p.m. – A student-driven session called “INSPIRE: Emerging Student Voices.” Inspired by the national “Ignite” framework, student speakers are given exactly 5 minutes for the presentation of 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds.
  • 2:30 p.m. – What it means to be “In St. Louis, For St. Louis.” In his inaugural address, Martin identified a commitment to St. Louis as one of the university’s three pillars of focus. In this working session, participants will hear highlights from the research of Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor, whose work examines the economic and demographic profile of the St. Louis region. Participants will break into small groups to provide insight, feedback and ideas to the chancellor on what “In St. Louis” means to them.
  • 3 p.m. – “Critical conversations: Tools and Tips for Student Employees on Dialoguing around Difference.” The hands-on workshop at the Danforth University Center will offer student employees a toolkit to navigate differences.

Other highlights of the day include engagement sessions on topics such as poetry; radical hospitality; navigating our own biases; a session with Sultan on creating personal narratives (registration will be required); our work in the K-12 educational community; mindfulness and more. A complete schedule of the day’s activities is available here. The day in Hillman Hall concludes at 4:15 p.m. with closing remarks by Hudson.

Coordinated to coincide with Day of Dialogue & Action, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion will host a celebration titled “Five Years in the Making” in Tisch Commons in the Danforth University Center.

A complete listing of events is available on the Day of Dialogue & Action website, as well as options for parking for all sessions. Participants are strongly encouraged to register to attend all events as some have limited capacity.

The annual Day of Dialogue & Action events give the Washington University campuses time to reflect and engage on diversity and inclusion issues. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)
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