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“Bentley Brave” Encourages Campus Community to Step Outside of Their Comfort Zones
When it comes to conversations around race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability and socio-economic status, people usually clam up. No one wants to talk about these things. Why? Because it can be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable.
For this reason many people filter their newsfeeds, choose to attend universities where they feel safe, and look for jobs at companies where they believe the culture matches their own. Most people rarely seek out opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones.
But what if they did?
Issues around diversity continue to surface in the news on what seems like a weekly basis. This summer alone the nation witnessed the heartbreaking fatalities in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas, as well as tragedies overseas. The controversial bathroom bill in North Carolina remains a heated debate and the verdict of Brock Turner’s trial, the Stanford University student accused of sexual assault, has made its way across every social media platform.
There is no question that these heavy topics have sparked intense and often uncomfortable conversations across generations. While the Bentley campus may not have been a site for activism and protests like at other schools, the commitment to fairness and open dialogue is no less valued.
Recognizing this, a group of Bentley faculty, staff and students joined forces to create new programs and spaces on campus for the community to productively engage in tough conversations. The result is Bentley Brave, a series of events and programs that will encourage education, meaningful conversation and reflection on controversial issues around diversity and identity.
Promoting “brave” spaces
Sponsored by Bentley’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Bentley Brave offers programs such as conversation groups, film screenings and lectures. Each event provides introductions to basic concepts, opportunities for dialogue and training, and experiences that push participants to dig deep into their own belief systems and implicit biases.
“For most of us, being able to effectively engage in difficult conversations requires a skillset that you need to develop and practice,” says Katie Lampley, director of Bentley’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. “We want to give students the opportunity to build these skills before they begin their lives outside the confines of the university setting.”
Lampley says the goal behind Bentley Brave isn’t necessarily to create a “safe” space, but rather a “brave” space that enables the community to learn from one another and gain more understanding and appreciation for those with backgrounds different from their own. (Learn more about the concept of brave spaces here)
“We acknowledge that 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 are afraid we might say the wrong thing,” Lampley continues. “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.
A campus-wide commitment
While Bentley Brave is a new initiative this fall, diversity has been a priority throughout Bentley’s history.
“Since our university’s beginning, Bentley has sought to create an educational community that connects students with world-class faculty and staff, working in tandem to prepare for a world that needs bridge-builders, problem-solvers and community-leaders,” says President Gloria Larson. “A critical aspect of participating in the Bentley community is recognizing that our view of the world may be different than that of those with whom we live, learn and work. Through Bentley Brave, we hope our entire community will better see, share, and understand those differences.”
Each year, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with the Multicultural Center, Center for International Students and Scholars, Spiritual Life Center, Center for Women and Business, and others, offer programs ranging from ally training to diversity retreats for all faculty, staff and students.
BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu.
In the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Colleges 2017, Bentley University is ranked #3 among “Best Regional Universities - North.”