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The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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February 24, 2016

Heller Forward Welcomes Spring With Community Day

The Heller School held a Community Day in January just before the start of the spring semester. A group of 15 Heller students planned and coordinated the event, volunteering their time over winter break to provide students with an informative, interactive and beneficial experience. Operating under the name "Heller Forward," these students came together with the goal of furthering the discussion at Heller about diversity and the concepts of power and privilege experienced both inside and outside the classroom. 

image of students at community day in zinner forum

Community Day was a time for Heller students, faculty and staff to participate in a learning and growing experience. Through an anonymous participant survey conducted prior to the day’s activities, 58 percent of students reported already having some knowledge about diversity, inclusion, power and privilege, although 13 percent said they did not. One student expressed a hope to leave Community Day “with more confidence in my ability to discuss these topics with my peers and professors.” 

To that point, 73 percent of students said that power and privilege are not discussed often in their classes. One student who commented hoped the day’s activities would provide “a good sense of positive ways to move forward in challenging systems of oppression and how to better include marginalized communities.” 

Students began the day with an icebreaker that involved all 90 attendees. Then participants split into small groups for facilitated discussions on what power and privilege look like, the ways in which they affect us and how we can fight against these oppressive systems. In the afternoon, Heller PhD student Awo Osei-Anto spoke to students about her own experiences with power and privilege in the classroom and in the workplace. At the end of the day, students chose between two workshops. The first was an ally training, facilitated by the local Boston grassroots organization White People Challenging Racism (WPCR). The second option was a panel discussion led by Heller students, many from international backgrounds, to hear about their experiences with power and privilege in the U.S. and in other countries. 

A second participant survey was conducted at the end of Community Day, revealing that 60 percent of participants “learned a lot about issues of diversity, inclusion, power and privilege.” Furthermore, 92 percent of students said they believe the ideas learned in Community Day should be better incorporated into the Heller curriculum. One student remarked, “I hope that there are more workshops/days that have these issues as a focus.” Another said “I think it would be helpful to have more time/days to discuss these issues.”

Students continue to work together to turn Heller Forward into a community-building organization that bridges the gaps between degree programs, students, faculty and staff to ensure that Heller continues to strive for inclusivity and equality in all aspects.

Image of Community Day Fact Sheet

Contact and More Information:

Students who are interested in joining or learning more about Heller Forward may contact Nicole McCauley at: nhmccauley@brandeis.edu.

For a one-pager summarizing survey data from the day's activities, please click here

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