Monday, April 20, 2009

New approach to college orientation

Sometimes I come across things that seem so common sensical, I wonder why we never thought of it before. Mount Holyoke College's new, unique approach to freshman orientation is one.

As some colleges do, Mount Holyoke offers a special orientation program (purely voluntary) to new minority students that allows them to talk about entering a predominantly White college and the issues they may face and allows them to connect with other minority students.

Though helping minority students adjust may seem positive and proactive, what about educating the White students on interacting with students of color? The approach seems to be a little lopsided.

Mount Holyoke has taken the initiative to take freshman orientation a step further. This year they plan to also have a voluntary orientation for White students as well as for the minority students. During a three and a half day orientation before the regular orientation, White and minority students will talk about race separately and together before joining the four-day mandatory orientation for all new students. The new pre-orientation program will have the name: "Promoting Intercultural Dialogue and Creating Inclusion."

Elizabeth Braun, dean of students, envisions that, "the first day of the program would have the groups in separate sessions, 'exploring their own racial identity and thinking about power and privilege.' Then the groups will have joint and separate programs."

I think it's time we start taking a second look at our approach to minorities, whether in schools (elementary, secondary, or college) or businesses, and begin developing programs that not only help minorities adjust and adapt, but to teach and encourage Whites to do adjust and adapt and learn to interact with people of color. What makes us think that *they* need all of the help??
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