University News

"Difficult Conversations" Series Begins 9/28

August 30, 2011

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MACOMB, IL -- "Difficult Conversations," a series of informal discussions to foster conversations about cultural diversity as it is experienced on the Western Illinois University campus, will begin Wednesday, Sept. 28 on the WIU-Macomb campus.

According to Deb Miretzky, assistant professor of educational and interdisciplinary studies and a member of the Expanding Cultural Diversity Project at Western, the discussions will provide the campus community with an opportunity to talk about some of the issues that arise when people unfamiliar with each other's backgrounds, values or experiences are asked to work and live side-by-side.

The first conversation will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. Sept. 28 in the University Union Lamoine Room and will focus on the notion of prejudice we sometimes find easy to identify in others, but difficult to identify in ourselves. Open to all members of the WIU community, "Difficult Conversations" will focus on issues specific to the WIU campus, classrooms, residence halls, administrative offices and other shared spaces. Though facilitators will share a certain amount of information, insight, and experience, participants are expected to take an active part in each conversation, bringing their own knowledge and experience to the discussions.

"Though our similarities far outweigh our differences, the differences can short-circuit communication and interaction and make cooperation difficult. Misunderstandings between those of different races and ethnicities or genders can be especially problematic," Miretzky noted. "The United States takes pride in its commitment to equal opportunity and democracy, struggles related to the status attached to race and ethnicity, gender and other differences are evident and can have a significant impact on the privileges and opportunities one can access."

Miretzky added that housing patterns, traditional perspectives and the media's reliance on stereotypes can undermine attempts to understand one another across cultural lines by limiting opportunities to interact in meaningful ways. The result is often a reluctance to cross those lines because of misinformation or a desire to stay within one's own comfortable cultural environment.

Subsequent topics and dates include University policies and intercultural cooperation, Wednesday, Nov. 9, Malpass Library Room 180; challenging and salvaging situations in the face of biased remarks, Thursday, Feb. 16, Malpass Library Room 180; and talking about prejudice (racism, sexism, heterosexism) directly and candidly, Wednesday, March 28, Malpass Library Room 180. All of the meetings will be held from 3:30-5 p.m.

The series is co-sponsored by the Expanding Cultural Diversity Project, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, the University Diversity Council and the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100.

For more information, contact Miretzky at or (309) 298-1528.

Posted By: WIU News (
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