Building a Beloved Community
The largest gathering of faculty and staff since the pandemic came together recently to learn about and practice active listening, empathy and mindful inquiry.
Nearly 300 UW Tacoma staff and faculty gathered inside William W. Philip Hall on Friday, March 10. They came to take part in an all-day workshop on “Building Beloved Communities through Mindful Communication.”
UW Tacoma Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion Elavie Ndura co-facilitated the training alongside Nicole Jordan, our new director of cross-cultural engagement. Ndura originally planned to run the session with renowned diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah but he came down with an illness and needed time to recover. “I have worked with Lee Mun in the past and knew the work very well, so I felt like we could continue and wouldn’t need to reschedule,” said Ndura.
The workshop helped lay the foundation for Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange’s stated goal of building a “beloved community” at UW Tacoma. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr popularized the term. In this context it means creating a community where everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, anger and hate.
Ndura started in her role in August 2022. “One consistent message I heard from staff and faculty during my first few months was that UW Tacoma needed to create spaces for the campus community to come together and heal,” she said.
For more than six hours, staff and faculty worked on concepts including active listening and practicing empathetic responses in small groups of two to four people. “The purpose of the workshop was to bring faculty, staff and administrators together to affirm their shared humanity, to enhance their capacity to communicate across socio-cultural differences with civility and empathy and to nurture meaningful relationships that are the essence of a beloved community,” said Ndura.
Based on feedback from participants, the workshop achieved its goals. “It felt really good to be in community with each other,” said one attendee. “There was an energy in the room that I haven’t seen on campus for a while. I spent the day getting to know the people around me while also building skills that will help me break down barriers and connect across difference.”
“Over the course of my career, I have participated in many trainings,” said another participant. “None have had the impact of this campus-wide event.”
Along with the workshop, Ndura has also convened a group of Inclusive Excellence Ambassadors. “Inclusive excellence refers to the practice of centering diversity, equity and inclusion in pedagogy, policies and procedures to nurture barrier-free learning and working environments,” she said.
The ambassadors are staff, faculty and students from across campus. The group meets weekly with the goal of addressing concerns raised in the 2019 Campus Climate Survey as well as ensuring UW Tacoma is in alignment with the goals detailed in the University of Washington’s larger Diversity Blueprint.
In addition to the workshop, a group of about 50 faculty and staff have registered to take part in a four-week mindful facilitation certificate program. “The idea is to decentralize this work, to spread it out to the units,” said Ndura. “I am also making myself available to hold additional workshops around DEI issues to units.”