Creating dialogue about intersectionality and why it matters

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Technological University Campus Diversity Educator Amy Howard discusses intersectionality with faculty, staff and students at a Diverse Dialogue on Monday.

What is intersectionality? Those who attended the second session of the Michigan Technological University Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s Diverse Dialogue series had the chance to delve into this topic on Monday afternoon.

The series is hosted by the Campus Diversity educator Amy Howard. The idea stemmed from the want for a lunch and learn.

Howard thought the series would be a good way to merge it with topics that represented the center’s mission to promote diversity. Her goal was to create a safe place for conversation and learning.

“My goal is to create a culture of learners, to create a culture of people who are at least invested enough to put themselves in situations where they can learn,” Howard said.

During the discussion, with mostly faculty and staff in attendance along with a couple of students, there were pair activities for participants to identify themselves and define intersectionality while discussing the “hard topic” that was meant to make people think.

People also had the opportunity to discuss their own personal examples and ask questions.

Although Howard presents information and definitions, every discussion is different and dependent on what those in the audience make it. She encourages people to delve deeper and be open-minded.

The series is a “pilot run” that began in December. It will run throughout the spring semester, then Howard will evaluate over the summer to see what to change, and what to add.

The discussions build off of one another, with topics of oppression, privilege, micro-aggressions and People of color (POC), women and LGBTQIA in STEM.

The conversations are meant to be starting points for those in attendance. Howard said there should be a want to continue learning about the topics, while spreading the knowledge learned.

“People shouldn’t be leaving these trainings thinking suddenly they understand what intersectionality is,” said Howard. “They should leave with a sense of understanding how it applies to them and their work.”

December graduate, Neffertia Tyner said the discussion allowed her the opportunity to learn about people she already knew but in a different manner.

“I learned some things about her (her partner) that I didn’t know and probably would have made assumptions about,” said Tyner.

Tyner thought it was an interesting topic and a great way to begin letting people know that it’s everyone’s job to work toward creating a diverse environment.

“I think it’s (diversity) the job of everyone and not just one department,” said Tyner. “It’s the job of faculty, students, staff and people in the community.

“It shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility to make an effort to educate people. It should be everyone’s.”

Howard agrees.

“I believe that if you work in education it is not an option,” said Howard. “It’s a responsibility that you have to create equitable, successful opportunities for everyone that you serve.”

The next discussion will be about POC in STEM next Tuesday in the Memorial Union Building in Alumni Lounge A at 12 p.m.