Beyond ‘politeness and niceness’

Multicultural speaker urges more authentic conversations on diversity and inclusion at packed-house Eye of the Hawk lecture

The Rev. Jamie Washington

The Rev. Jamie Washington engages a standing-room-only audience Monday at UND’s Gorecki Alumni Center as part of the second Eye of the Hawk Lecture held on campus. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Joint Affirmation of Diversity and Inclusion

We are proud of the UND community for turning out a standing-room crowd for Dr. Jamie Washington’s Eye of the Hawk Lecture on diversity and inclusion. The strong attendance reflected our embrace of the Core Values identified in our One UND strategic planning process:

Diversity – An understanding and appreciation of diverse people, experiences, and ideas

Inclusivity – A welcoming, inclusive, and supportive environment for all

We affirm Dr. Washington’s call to devote ourselves to a continued conversation in the months and years ahead on how we can strive to more perfectly realize these values and make all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors feel included in our community as One UND.

Mark Kennedy, President

Executive Council: Thomas DiLorenzo, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Laurie Betting, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs; Alice Brekke, Vice President for Finance and Operations; Peter Johnson, Interim Vice President for University & Public Affairs; Grant McGimpsey, Vice President for Research and Economic Development; Joshua Wynne, Vice President for Health Affairs; DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO, UND Alumni Association and Foundation

Deans: Hesham El-Rewini, College of Engineering and Mines; Cindy Juntunen, College of Education and Human Development; Paul Lindseth, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences; Grant McGimpsey, School Graduate Studies; Kathryn Rand, School of Law; Debbie Storrs, College of Arts and Sciences; Gayle Roux, College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines; Stephanie Walker, Dean of Libraries; Margaret Williams, College of Business and Public Administration; Joshua Wynne, School of Medicine and Health Sciences

The Rev. Jamie Washington

The Rev. Jaime Washington urged members of his UND audience to have deeper more authentic conversations about diversity and inclusion. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

 The story

On Monday night, the Rev. Jamie Washington brought a full-house UND audience to its knees with his voice, and then lifted them up again with an inspirational message on diversity and inclusion that flies in the face of human nature.

Washington opened UND’s second-ever Eye of the Hawk Lecture at the Gorecki Alumni Center with a rousing a cappella version of the gospel classic, “If I Can Help Somebody,” which, with its haunting refrain “No, my living shall not be in vain,” was sung at the funeral of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The song was the perfect attention-getter for the night’s event and a springboard toward Washington’s message of moving the discussion of diversity and inclusion into the modern era, or as he puts it: “our next round of work.”

“We’re trying to do diversity and inclusion with 1980s technology,” Washington told the hundreds of attendees in the lecture audience. “We’re not upgrading our software and we’re running into glitches because we don’t understand how to update and upgrade.”

Washington called for a deeper and more authentic conversation on diversity and inclusion, one that forces people to stop being mere “good participants” and start building real capacity to understand what it truly means.

This requires creating spaces beyond comfort zones, where all voices are welcomed and heard, and where people are willing to engage conflict and discomfort across differences, Washington said.

In other words: Be real and shed the “Minnesota and North Dakota Nice” acts.

“It is important for us to move beyond politeness and niceness,” said Washington, president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm in Baltimore.

Washington said these spaces require open and honest communication for true learning to take place. It’s the kind of learning that can effect a real culture shift toward greater inclusion.

“We need to trust that the dialogue will take us to deeper levels of understanding and acceptance,” he said.

Washington urged everyone in the audience to “get your leadership on” and take more assertive approaches to diversity and inclusion by exploring differences and engaging in meaningful conversations about it.

Washington’s presentation took place as the University is celebrating the faiths of all people as part of Interfaith Week on campus. It also came on the heels of the inaugural UND Eye of the Hawk Lecture on Jan. 19 by James McGregor, a global public affairs consultant and expert on China. McGregor’s lecture also drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Washington’s lecture was hosted by the UND College of Arts and Sciences, and was sponsored by Rick and Jody Burgum.

Eye of the Hawk Lecture

Audience members attending the Rev. Jamie Washington’s Eye of the Hawk lecture on diverstiy and inclusion lecture were asked to turn to their neighbors to engage in authentic conversations about themselves. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Lecture roots

The idea for the Eye of the Hawk Lecture Series originates from UND President Kennedy and has its roots in the president’s previous appointment at George Washington University (GWU), where he served as director of the Graduate School of Political Management, as well as at Kennedy’s alma mater of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

As head of the graduate school at GWU, Kennedy and his wife, Debbie, sponsored the “Frontiers of Freedom” award to honor individuals who work to advance the frontier of freedom beyond the borders of the United States.  At St. John’s, the Kennedys set up a lecture series by the same name as the GWU award. The Mark Kennedy Frontiers of Freedom Lecture Series at the St. John’s University Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement set a goal of bringing in speakers who added “real intellectual diversity…to ensure that you hear both sides, so you can critically evaluate the challenges we face,” Mark Kennedy said.

“My hope is that through the Eye of the Hawk Lecture Series and other activities, I may, in some small way, advance the same purposes here at UND,” he added.

Welcoming place

Prior to Washington’s lecture a vigil was held outside the Gorecki Alumni Center to show support for the University’s international community and for people caught in the middle of a travel ban brought on by U.S. Presidential Executive order.

Kennedy said Dr. Washington’s conversation at UND couldn’t have come at a more fitting time as the nation grapples with questions related to the travel ban and its halting certain groups from coming to the United States.

In the face of what is taking place nationally, Kennedy said he wants UND to be known for being an inclusive place that welcomes all.

“We do want that to be our hallmark,” Kennedy said, “….for those from North Dakota or not, to come and understand that UND is the premier Flagship University of the Northern Plains and a great place to work and study.”

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