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In conjunction with a series of workshops to facilitate dialogue about diversity and inclusion, Karlita Warren, co-chair of the Faculty Diversity Committee, led a workshop titled “Handling Difficult Conversations in the Classroom” Wednesday in the Howell Board Room.
About 10 faculty met to discuss BRAVING, an acronym coined by Brene Brown, which she explains as the anatomy of trust.
BRAVING stands for: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgment and Generosity.
Brown, who is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, says these elements are essential in dissecting and understanding what it means to hold trust in professional and university level spaces.
James Garcia, assistant professor of psychology, noted that the different categories in BRAVING promote the overall idea of vulnerability.
“When I teach my multicultural class, the vulnerability people share about their lives is them opening up and being exposed,” Garcia said. “It is up to me to show respect as a professor when someone is trusting me with their life experience.”
Garcia said when faculty, staff and administration commit to make personal changes, they can become accountable to teach students how to effectively respond in a classroom and professional environment.
“The low amount in attendance makes me think, are we preaching to the choir?” Garcia said. “A lot of us in this room are already invested in this work, so people not in the room need to be in the room for the accountability aspect.”
Monique Williams, assistant professor of health, said she sets the boundaries in her classroom on day one.
“I set the boundaries of respect and acknowledge the power dynamics in the classroom to allow for safe spaces to be created,” Williams said. “You can explain that you are here to support them and get them through this journey because one day you want to see them as your future colleagues.”
Williams said if a negative experience happens in her classroom, the situation is acknowledged immediately and people are held accountable.
Non-judgment is a component of Brown’s acronym meaning someone can fall apart and ask for help without the fear of being judged by others.
“We do try to minimize and manage our judgment but as humans we automatically have a sense of judgment,” Williams said. “Our life experiences provide us with a certain amount of judgments and it is how we show each other respect in the space in relation to those judgments.”
Brianna Cardenas, assistant professor in the physician assistant program, said when a person has various intersectionality of identities, their experiences may not always be positive.
“So if you have ACES, childhood neglect or other traumas, trusting people is sometimes difficult,” Cardenas said. “From a boundary and accountability standpoint, it is about how to reflect now as an adult to say, ‘I am not accountable for the trauma that took place but for the healing that needs to happen.’”
Warren said administration wants to integrate BRAVING into department and college meetings.
“The best we can do is continue to have these workshops and hope more people will show up,” Warren said.
The next workshop is “Faculty of Color Luncheon: Meet and Greet” on the Lowery Terrace in the Campus Center from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.