THINKposium 2015 "Intersectionality" logo Intersectionality is the idea that experiences depend on all aspects of a person’s identity rather than just one. This concept was explored and discussed among over 150 faculty and staff during the 3rd annual THINKposium. Intersectionality has been applied to examining the intersectional nature of any social identity including religion, ethnicity, immigration status, veteran status, age and sexuality within research, teaching and workplace dynamics.

One of the goals of the THINKposium was to not only provide to introduce concepts and provide promising practices but also provide a space that is this blend of think tank and brainstorming along with education, learning, and discovery. In addition to those things, the THINKposium was also an opportunity for members of the campus community to become better equip to transform working and classroom environments, and in turn, transform Carolina, said Dr Taffye Benson Clayton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) and Chief Diversity Officer at Carolina.

State Of Diversity at Carolina

Benson Clayton delivered the annual “State of Diversity at Carolina” that provided highlights from the 2014-2015 Diversity Plan Report and updates from institutional efforts towards advancing diversity at the institution.

“I would like for you to consider how Carolina is at an intersection. There have been a number of moments over this past year that is certainly shaping diversity and inclusion at Carolina, moments where we can think about “what’s at the intersection?” How is identity, place, and space being considered or in many cases, reconsidered? Think about it and lets roll up our sleeves and get messy,“ said Clayton.

Clayton’s message provided an overview of institutional efforts including the work of the Provost Committee on Inclusive Excellence and Diversity (PCIED), Provost’s Minority Male Workgroup, and the Faculty Governance’s Committee on Community and Diversity and how these efforts connect to an Inclusive Excellence framework. She went to to review Carolina’s renaming of Saunders Hall; rededication of The GIFT by renowned artist and citizen of the Haliwa Saponi nation, Senora Lynch; launch of UNC Core – a program targeting military veterans returning to school, Carolina Conversations, the launch of DMA’s College to Corporate initiative to bridge the gap between employer expectations and student skills; and launch of Inclusive Excellence at Carolina – a new online resource that provides the campus and greater public with a framework for understanding and applying inclusive excellence in higher education.

Participants had the opportunity to share diversity initiatives from their departments and units as part of “Appreciating Achievements”. “Sharing promising programs and policies serve as creative ways that departments problem solve related to recruitment, retention and workplace climate and can share their practices with others who are looking for strategies.” said Sharbari Dey, assistant director for diversity education and special initiatives at DMA and one of the THINKposium coordinators.

Keynote Terrell Strayhorn

Keynote speaker Dr. Strayhorn at 2015 THINKposiumDr. Terrell Strayhorn, a professor of higher education at The Ohio State University (OSU), where he also serves as director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE), senior research associate in the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and faculty affiliate in the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male and the Criminal Justice Research Center, delivered the keynote for the event and challenged participants to engage in a “high-ordered thinking process. ”

He offered experiences and strategies for disruption of bias from his own work as faculty and diversity advocate:

  • Embrace the role of a cultural navigator
  • Engage in intrusive mentoring with high expectations of the mentees
  • Using one’s power and positionality for social justice
  • Reframing conversations to center the experiences of marginalized groups
  • To question mono causal explanations for decisions
  • Use data to redirect and positively disrupt assumptions

Collective Learning

The afternoon session facilitated by associate professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Dr. Tanya Shields and Sharbari Dey focused on using Lynn Weber’s framework to delve into applying an intersectional lens to disrupt dominant and unexamined power using five elements: historically and geographically contextual, socially constructed, power relations, macro socio-structural and simultaneously expressed. Participants engaged in small group discussions on three scenarios related to ‘how space matters’, ‘interpersonal communications’ and ‘the daily balancing of our colleagues’. The final part of the day was dedicated to implications for actions and processing the experience.

“It was exciting to hear an inspirational keynote, learn from colleagues and reflect on ways that we can be creative and disrupt the norm to create a truly inclusive Carolina,” reflected a THINKposium participant.

THINKposium was hosted by Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Faculty Excellence, and co-sponsored by the Office of Faculty Governance and Employee Forum.

For more information about this and other diversity education efforts, visit DMA’s Diversity Education and Research Center at diversity.unc.edu/derc