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“Bentley Brave” Encourages Campus Community to Step Outside of Their Comfort Zones
Subjects such as race and religion bring up personal differences that are difficult to discuss — even among friends. The same discomfort with diversity prompts many to filter their newsfeeds, attend universities that feel familiar, and look for jobs at companies whose culture appears to match their own. At Bentley, a group of faculty, staff and students aims to break the silence around sensitive issues.
Their initiative — Bentley Brave — creates opportunities for the campus community to engage in tough conversations. Events and programs encourage meaningful education, conversation and reflection on controversial issues around diversity and identity.
Beliefs and Biases
Launched last fall and sponsored by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Bentley Brave has offered conversation groups, film screenings and lectures. Each event introduces basic concepts and provides a venue for dialogue, training and experiences that push participants to dig deep into their own belief systems and implicit biases. More than 450 campus community members have taken part so far.
“For most of us, being able to effectively engage in difficult conversations requires a skill set you need to develop and practice,” says Katie Lampley ’96, director of diversity and inclusion. “We want to help students build these skills before they begin their lives outside the university.”
Its name is a nod to what Bentley Brave asks of participants.
“Having conversations about the things that make us different requires a willingness to ask honest questions of ourselves and others, and a desire to keep talking even when we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing,” explains Lampley. “That is what being brave is all about.”
All events are facilitated by instructors who can help navigate through conflict and set ground rules, such as maintaining an overall level of respect.
Computer Information Systems major Ciara Morley ’17 developed an interest in social activism through courses in gender studies and sociology. From there, she started looking for opportunities outside the classroom.
“Once I began paying attention to the tragic, racially charged events happening around the country, such as the Michael Brown shooting, it opened my eyes to how much work there is to be done,” says Morley. Joining the Bentley Brave planning committee was “one way to make a contribution to my immediate community.”
In previous years, campus dialogues around diversity often took place in reaction to national current events. Morley sees value in having these conversations through a structured campus program.
“Bentley Brave is normalizing these conversations and creating a space where students won’t feel like they are being shut down.”
The new initiative builds on a strong tradition of diversity initiatives at Bentley. Each year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with the Multicultural Center, Center for International Students and Scholars, Spiritual Life Center, and Center for Women and Business, among others, offer programs ranging from ally training to diversity retreats for faculty, staff and students.
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.