August 2017

Just for Families

Diversity and Inclusion at New College

by Autumn Harrell, director of diversity and inclusion

When I was in high school, I was actively involved the school’s multicultural club. We offered events, invited local speakers to host workshops, and planned the school’s annual talent show. Each year we welcomed new and returning members, reaffirmed our purpose and discussed how we would function as an organization.

These conversations were an exercise in navigating cultural differences. Take the process of establishing ground rules for a workshop. What does “respect” mean to you? Can we talk at once or should we take turns? How should you let someone know they offended you? How do you respond if you say something hurtful? Your personality and background influence your reactions and response.

Later, when I was in college, a peer and I were talking with visiting students about our upbringing, and we realized that though our outward appearances were quite different, we shared many of the same experiences and social identities. That conversation revealed our cultural connections.

Conversations like these can be surprising, even awkward, but they are part of the liberal arts experience. We value both kinds, those about cultural differences and connections, at New College.

Here, diversity and inclusion means celebrating the differences that make us unique and using our diverse foundation to build a welcoming community. This doesn’t mean we agree on every issue or approach in the same way. Rather, the diversity of perspectives and experiences strengthen our ability to think critically. Through dialogue, listening to the perspectives of others, and challenging our own assumptions, we become a better campus, community, and global citizens.

This fall semester, the office of diversity and inclusion, along with the Division of Student Affairs, will offer a variety of programs and initiatives to continue these important conversations.

  • The day before classes begin on Sunday, Aug. 27, come to the Hamilton Center for “You Belong Here.” This event will feature craft making, games, and prizes. This is a great opportunity for new and returning students to foster connections with each other and learn about New College.
  • On Thursday, Aug. 31, join us for “Dear World,” a portrait storytelling experience that will have you think about the story you want to tell the world and spark conversation for the year to come.
  • Common Grounds is a monthly program starting in September where you can discuss current topics with other students in a coffeeshop-style atmosphere.
  • Throughout the semester there will be many opportunities to get involved both on-campus and in the local community. We are offering film screenings, trips to local sports games, and community service events. Many student groups including clubs, RAs, and the New College Student Alliance, will offer programming that will span a range of interests.

As you think about the ways you’ll start or continue your involvement on campus, reflect on your story: who you are, your experiences, knowledge and strengths, what you can offer, and what you can bring to multiple conversations.

© 2015 New College of Florida