University of the Rockies has a commitment to diversity work that goes beyond a traditional sensitivity program, toward a holistic operation designed to support an inclusive culture. For us, the focus of diversity work has a mix of three components: raising consciousness about the impact that difference can have on a system; equipping people with the skills to respond to differences; and shaping systems to align with differences.
The Mix It Up to Make a Difference initiative supports our commitment to climate improvement for our entire community. This concept is based on a model developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. National Mix It Up Day is an initiative to help school children overcome the divides that separate them. While the focus of the National Day is a single day event, we transformed the concept to support our adult staff, students and the local K-12 community.
Once a quarter we host a lunch in Colorado Springs and in San Diego where we ask participants to engage in dialogue with people from different departments. We have blankets to sit on, pizza to eat, discussion cards and live music. All are invited to join in.
On National Mix it Up Day, we take the concept a step further. The day begins with a presentation about the importance of looking beyond the surface to understand other people. Last year staff, faculty and students decorated large sheets of paper with artwork, finger-paints and graffiti. The artwork is currently hanging on the UoR campus in Colorado Springs.
Following the presentation, a contingent from our university visited local schools to share the Mix It Up experience with the young students. There, we asked students to sit with people they didn’t know and initiated conversation using question cards to keep the discussion flowing. The outcome has been tremendous. Attendees share stories with us about the value of the connections that have formed as a result of these activities. Each month participation increases and commitment strengthens.