Sociology Class Takes Lessons On Diversity To Residence Halls

Does racism and prejudice happen on Nebraska Wesleyan’s campus?

Some incidents may occur under the radar, but they happen, and for minority students even small actions have big impacts.

Students enrolled in Professor Susan Wortmann’s Race Relations and Minorities class wanted to bring diversity awareness to the forefront at Nebraska Wesleyan student body.

Earlier this fall students Stephanie Densberger, Mikayla Donahoo, Tyler North, Kylee O’Connor, and Paige Snook attended an anti-racism workshop hosted at Nebraska Wesleyan called, “Dismantling Institutional Racism.” The workshop was sponsored by Call to Action Nebraska and Nebraskans for Peace. The goal of the workshop was to dismantle institutional racism by identifying the structures that maintain systemic racism and inequality, and replace them with new structures that are liberating, life-giving and just. The students took away essential information from the workshop that enabled them to construct their own diversity workshop to present to students living in the residence halls as a part of their class’s final project.

The idea for this project came when Wortmann, associate professor of sociology, was looking for a different way to teach her class about pertinent issues in a more hands-on and effective way. She wanted to provide a deeper learning experience and allow the students an opportunity to learn and think by teaching from their gained experiences. Wortmann heard about the diversity workshop coming to campus and took advantage of the opportunity. She then made a phone call to Brandi Sestak, Director of Residential Education, to organize a diversity training workshop in the residence halls.

“It’s a great way to connect people’s experiences inside and outside of the classroom,” said Wortmann. “It’s important to understand how to integrate students’ daily experiences with materials in the classroom, and this was an ideal opportunity for accomplishing that goal.”

The workshop for residential students included video clips, skits, and discussions about their experiences with racism. The workshop impacted both those in the residence halls as well as the sociology students who presented the workshop.

“I learned that whether we mean to or not, we all carry stereotypes with us. It doesn’t necessarily have to be of race, but by being more open to others we can overcome stereotypes,” said junior Kylee O’Connor. “I also learned to be more observant of others and to just always be sure to be inviting and open to other people’s opinions.”

“I think the diversity workshop was a great opportunity to help spread awareness to Nebraska Wesleyan students about potential issues that may come up on a daily basis on campus,” said junior Paige Snook. “After having the Mosaic panel come and speak to our race relations class, I think we all realized how subtle racist comments can be and we truly wanted to inform the student body and spread knowledge regarding the issue.”

Not only was the workshop a success for the sociology students, but it provided a great opportunity for the residence halls to receive information.

“We were essentially looking for ways to link classroom material with real-life settings and really establish a connection between the two,” said Sestak, Director of Residential Education. “I love the idea of the diversity workshop because it provides a new opportunity to learn in a new way.”

The diversity workshop is just one example of how Nebraska Wesleyan is linking both academic and student life experiences. Other examples of the collaboration include Liberal Arts Seminars (LAS) taught in the residence halls and the new theme houses where students live in a house and commit their time and activities toward a specific topic.

“My goal is to bridge relationships between the academic world and co-curricular learning to create a full circle experience here at Nebraska Wesleyan,” said Sestak. “This workshop is one big step towards that goal.”

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This fall sociology students presented a diversity workshop in the residence halls.
Students enrolled in the Race Relations sociology class developed the diversity workshop as part of their final class project.