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Students Gather at Bentley to Tackle Diversity Issues at National Summit
It may have been 8 a.m., but Diversity Trainer Maura Cullen captured the attention of more than 250 students from 26 universities at this year’s Diversity Student Summit hosted by Bentley University in October. The one-day, high-energy conference is designed to mobilize students and staff to be innovative in creating and sustaining more inclusive campus communities.
“Students were incredibly motivated throughout the day,” says Tony Martin, assistant director of the Residential Center and co-chair of the LGBTQ@Bentley Steering Committee. “Everyone participated in interactive and educational dialogues around diversity and inclusion, and students were challenged on how they would bring what they learned back to their home institutions.”
Earl Avery, special assistant to the president and ombudsman at Bentley, opened the day with a talk about what Bentley has done in terms of diversity, including numerous campus groups and events, and more than 40 courses that include diversity issues as core parts of their work.
Following a performance by Bentley’s F.I.R.E. (Fierce Individuals Reaching for Excellence) Step Squad, Maura Cullen shared her energetic spirit to educate, inspire and encourage the audience. The first activity included exchanging a variety of quotes with at least four other people. Among the messages:
• “Let us begin to see the true promise of our country and community, not as a melting pot, but as a kaleidoscope.” –Robert F. Kennedy
• “I note the obvious differences between, but we are more alike, my friends, then we are unalike.” –Maya Angelou
Cullen continued with a thought-provoking analogy comparing people to used cars — both often judged by visuals such as size, model and color, which can result in false impressions. Bentley sophomore Jennifer Wright appreciated Cullen’s advice on how to raise the B.A.R.: When faced with a difficult situation, first Breathe, then Acknowledge, and finally Respond. (Many people do the exact opposite: react, attack and then breathe.)
Since 1987, Maura Cullen has been presenting dynamic seminars and speaking engagements throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. She is considered one of the foremost authorities on issues of diversity and leadership, and has worked with more than 500 organizations.
Students left the program armed with the knowledge to become more proactive.
“Maura Cullen showed us the reality of diversity in the world and encouraged us to examine our own actions,” says Wright, who used Storify to chronicle the event. “How do we treat the issue of diversity, and how can we act better now that we have this new information?”
The program was presented in collaboration with Bentley’s Residential Center, the Multicultural Center and the support of the Division of Student Affairs.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.