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Lehigh enters into “Conversations on Race”

Daniel Bahner ’09, a classical civilization major, realizes that there is a lot about race he doesn’t know.

But thanks to last month’s pilot sessions of Lehigh’s new Conversations on Race (CoR) program, Bahner learned a lot more on the subject.

“I had hoped to get different opinions on race and how to approach the topic of race in conversations with other people,” says Bahner, discussing the reason why he decided to attend the two-part session in early December. “I thought the discussions were thought provoking.”

At the very least, Bahner believes CoR will make Lehigh students more aware and open to talking about the problem of racism, a fact that ultimately could make the environment at Lehigh more appealing to prospective students.

Developed at Indiana University in Bloomington back in 2000, CoR offers students the opportunity to talk about race in an environment where participants can safely reflect on and express their personal experiences, consider the viewpoints of others, and develop strategies for action.

Beginning in late February, Lehigh students who sign up for the program will commit to a two-hour session each week for six weeks, during which trained CoR faculty/staff facilitators will conduct conversations about different race-related topics.

Alta Thornton, a coordinator in the Office of Residence Life, knows that students have thoughts about race, but hopes that Lehigh’s CoR program “will empower students to a point of true self-exploration, where they can question what they have been taught about race and race relations, or develop initial ideas if they have not been taught anything.”

The program, Thornton says, will give students a non-academic setting where they can be honest with themselves and others to process these thoughts.

Developmentally, she says, college-aged students are primed to grasp seemingly intangible and unchangeable concepts, process and internalize them, and adapt their behavior based on what they have learned.

“In short,” Thornton says, “the timing is right for this type of program. College students expect to be exposed to new ideas and not only is it our responsibility as educators to make sure that happens, it is our job to prepare them for these encounters, and to position them to become well-rounded adults.”

For more information on how to become a program facilitator or to participate in the Conversations on Race program, e-mail Alta Thornton.

Lehigh’s Conversations on Race program is a part of the Joint Multicultural Program.

—Sarah Cooke


Posted on Monday, January 16, 2006

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