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New AHANA Leadership Program Promotes Race Discussion

The Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) has been training student leaders to lead discussions on race, culture, and identity this year through the Bowman Advocates for Inclusive Culture program. The program was created by Tiffany Enos, assistant director of the BAIC.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accredited the BAIC in the spring, allowing its staff to train student leaders who facilitate discussions on race. Boston College is the first university to receive ADL approval to train student leaders.

The ADL has had a close relationship with the BAIC, according to Enos. Ines Sendoya, the director of the Center, was inspired by the ADL when she attended one of its events  in Boston. The event, which was a peer training program for middle school and high school students, inspired her to create a student leadership training program at BC. She believed that students would rather listen to other students than staff members, so having student leaders on campus would be invaluable to hosting meaningful conversations.

The Bowman Advocates are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who work to make BC a more inclusive community. The advocates went through a long application process, in which they had to write several essays and attend an interview at the Bowman Center. Their first leadership opportunity was during Welcome Week, when they co-facilitated debrief sessions after the MOSAIC program, in which students talked about their personal experiences.

Enos, who joined the BAIC staff in Nov. 2015, oversees the different programs the BAIC has, including the Campus of Difference workshops and the Dialogues on Race workshops. She also created the Bowman Advocates training program.

“It’s [about] being present, being vocal, and just encouraging and supporting each other.”

—Tiffany Enos, assistant director of the BAIC

The Campus of Difference workshops are for first-year students who would like to discuss diversity and identity. This program is a pilot program that reached 400 first-year students over the course of 25 workshops. Enos hopes that the program will eventually become required for all first-year students. Students who wish to continue with the program can receive a certificate if they participate in five other workshops.

“Feedback has been really positive,” Enos said. “Overall, students are leaving the sessions feeling like they had a great experience and were happy to get to know their floormates a little bit better … and they’re looking for more conversations like this.”

The Dialogues on Race workshops are open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and allow students to engage in peer-led discussions on issues related to race. These workshops occur several times a month.

“I feel like our responsibility is very simply to offer a space for dialogue,” she said. “We’re not going to change hearts and minds in 90 minutes, but we do hope that it’s an introduction for people to engage in a productive dialogue around what it means to be who you are.”

The Bowman Advocates have been trained to co-facilitate both workshops throughout the year. They had their first training in May and had a full week of training in August. During the training, they spent time learning social justice facilitation techniques and practiced them. They also focused on personal development, participating in activities on identity, race, and discrimination. The purpose of the training is to create student leaders who are knowledgeable about social injustices happening around the world and who know how to lead an open discussion about these injustices.

“For us that’s the most important thing because we want people to feel like they have something to contribute to the community—whoever they are,” Enos said. “And we hope that that comes across through the program.”

The BAIC consistently gets requests for trainings throughout the year, especially from student organizations, Enos said. The Bowman Advocates will help lead many of those trainings.

“It’s [about] being present, being vocal, and just encouraging and supporting each other,” Enos said.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

November 17, 2016