Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations

Community Conversations

Conversations will explore ideas around dignity and respect, the challenges and fears we face when having difficult or sensitive conversations, what this means for us individually and collectively, and how we can work to create a campus environment that rejects hate and embraces our ideals of respect, dignity, and inclusion. Conversations will take place over a complimentary lunch or dinner and will last for 2 hours. Staff supervisors will be asked to provide release time for participants and ambassadors.

The goal: to help students, faculty, and staff improve communication across differences and create positive relationships with others in the UMass community. 

The challenge: we come from diverse backgrounds and experiences that lead to varying levels of comfort and ability to interact thoughtfully across difference. Poor interactions can be very harmful, and worries about being misinterpreted can make interactions stressful. These concerns can keep individuals from engaging with others who don’t share their background or lead to miscommunication when they do.

The plan: Community conversations will be spaces to help individuals develop skills and participate in conversations exploring what dignity and respect mean for each of us with other campus community members. All conversation participants will receive skill focused training and materials, be part of a small group conversation around themes of dignity and respect, and recieve a lunch voucher to participate in a follow-up conversation with their small group. Additional resources will also be available online for the entire UMass community. In all, five sessions will be held starting after January 29 through April 30, 2019, and we hope you will join one of them. These sessions can also be held for departments/units upon request.

The outcomes: by participating in Community Conversations, we believe that each participant will experience:

  • Increased comfort in communicating across differences
  • Increased empathy and understanding of different experiences
  • Increased awareness of and skill in active listening
  • Increased skill in communicating disagreement without discord

Conversation Dates

Climate Ambassadors

In spring 2018, the Office of Equity and Inclusion and Workplace Learning and Development launched the campus climate ambassadors program. A campus-wide call for applications was distributed, and the carefully chosen ambassadors received several hours of training in order to facilitate small peer group meetings—called climate conversations—across campus. These ambassadors included undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff, and sought to incorporate the many voices that make up the UMass fabric in a conversation around campus climate. 

This spring of 2019, the climate ambassador and climate conversation initiative continues, with Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations. In support of the UMass Dignity and Respect Campaign, these conversations will be focused on creating dialogue and developing skills for building more inclusive campus communities. As we strive to move the university toward its aspirational climate, participation in UMass' various initiatives around equity and inclusion are critical, and we urge any and all members of our campus community to apply to become a part of this program or to join the conversation in the spring semester.

2019 Ambassador Duties

Ambassadors will facilitate one-hour long conversations with a small group of campus participants during a session that will last a total of two-hours, with the potential for a follow-up lunch conversation with the same group. These sessions will take place in February and the beginning of March, and every ambassador would be expected to facilitate at least two conversations. Release time will be available for staff ambassadors.

Attending one ambassador training session is required, and sessions will be held on January 15, 9:00am-1:00pm and January 30, 4:00pm-8:00pm.

Ambassador applications are now closed.