Volume 97 Issue 6 News

Creating Students that Look Twice; LEAD: Creative Diversity

by Theresa Oo

A new one-credit course called LEAD: Creative Diversity was introduced at Juniata. Students are able to tell and listen to personal stories as well as discuss diversity.

The class promotes awareness of diversity by helping students understand individual differences and find ways to approach this distinction. “Students want to be given an opportunity to talk with one another in a face to face, person to person, heart to heart way, so that they would get to know each other in a more meaningful way,” said Grace Fala, professor of communications and instructor in the course.

According to Fala, the goal of the course is for students to be themselves without playing any roles. “Toward the middle and the end of the semester, students will be given an opportunity to creatively express their story, so that others can visualize their story and vice versa,” said Fala.

“I was a bit hesitant the first day after such small groups showed up, but that has actually turned out to be an advantage. It has already become a very close group and the relationships between faculty facilitators and students is really special. I love the flow of the class and how every idea is welcomed. I really look forward to getting to know myself and my fellow classmates better over the course of the semester,” said junior Marissa Woodman.

There are eight students enrolled in the course, which is facilitated by Fala, Juniata College’s Registrar Athena Frederick, Campus Chaplain Dave Witkovsky and Dean of International Education Kati Csoman.

Alex Bernosky, a senior, said, “I am super aware of Kati, Athena, David, and I know that they’re very smart, so it’s a little bit intimidating to have four faculty members instead of one professor. It’s also a little bit nerve wracking for me, but I think I’ll get over it. I’ll probably grow to be more comfortable because I look up to them, hopefully.”

Tesia Lewis, a sophomore enrolled in the class, said, “I think that we are really lucky to have such a diverse and unique group of students in our class.  From what I have seen so far, each of us has an incredible story that needs to be told! I really believe that the faculty we have teaching us this course will help us obtain the goals we need to make those stories come to life, and I am so excited to be a part of this process.”

Another goal in the course is for students not to judge a person by their first impression. “The word look twice means respect, and the word respect means look again, and when you look again, you ask yourself, ‘Am I just seeing a label, or a race, a culture or an ethnicity or a gender?’ By looking twice, hopefully, we can see more of our human connection,” said Fala.

According to Fala, multiple and diverse voices in the course would benefit the dissolution of labels and give each person’s voice a place. “When we have discussions on campus about diversity, what comes up a lot is people complaining that, the only people who go to discussions are people who don’t need to come because they’re already talking about it because they’re interested in it, but I would really encourage people, as weird as it sounds, who are not interested in talking about diversity, to take the class because they would be really valuable for the class,” said Bernosky.

According to Woodman, the course definitely does not care where you’re from. “To any students taking the class next semester I think the most important thing is not to hold back. I am a very shy person and even when I can feel myself blushing it’s nice to know that my ideas are both welcomes and supported,” said Woodman.

With the interactions through story telling, the class allows the students to express themselves in a creative way. “Some students might choose to tell their story as a story, others might choose to write their story, others might design their story into a poem, into a song or into a dance,” said Fala.

“Maybe I’ll play guitar. So I might be able to do something with a song, but I think Dr. Fala will pressure me to do that too because she knows that I play the guitar. She’ll be like, ‘Sasha, you have to keep practicing you don’t want to lose what you’ve got,’” said Bernosky.

Course activities include watching films and reading articles, but students are most often asked to reflect and converse with one another. In the middle of the semester, there will be an overnight retreat, which includes creative activities and meaningful conversations. “But definitely, the whole point of the trip is to get closer,” said Fala.

LEAD: Creative Diversity can be taken up to four times because each time a student takes the course, it will be somewhat different.

“Thus far, the class has been an incredibly welcoming space and the connections we are building with one another are a great example of what the Juniata community looks and feels like at its best,” said Lewis.

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