Campus Spotlight: Sustained Dialogue

During a time when many felt they had no control over what was happening around them, one Sustained Dialogue group at Case Western Reserve University group latched onto their project. In the early days of the pandemic, the group, composed of faculty and staff members, could have let the work they were doing fall off their radar and it would have been understandable. But after a short break to adjust to remote operations, members of the group dug in and worked even harder on their proposal for incorporating accountability for diversity and inclusion into performance reviews.

“No one should ever feel they aren’t part of the Case Western Reserve family, or Cleveland, or Ohio or the U.S.,” explained the group’s facilitators, Ann Ghazy, department assistant in University Technology, and Marie Norris, graduate programs coordinator in the Department of Bioethics. “It had touched our hearts and we wanted to see it through. All of that commitment stood out to me.”

CWRU is part of the National Sustained Dialogue network, a program that engages members of the community through communication and listening to inspire positive changes, build community and foster understanding. CWRU offers Sustained Dialogue groups for faculty and staff, undergraduates and graduate students around various topics, such as an athletics and food insecurity. The program is in its seventh year at the university.

When the faculty and staff group started meeting, they explored day care options for faculty and staff, and mental health awareness on campus. But the group’s bias exercises pointed them in a different direction: fostering an inclusive environment on campus.

This Sustained Dialogue group recognized the impact of microaggressions and attitudes that exist, and were determined to see their proposal through. Ghazy and Norris said group’s members were consistently involved and participation never waned. 

“We all followed through when we volunteered to do something. Everyone collected, read, and critiqued the research,” they said. “We were serious and committed.”

The group’s other members were:

  • Elise Geither, associate director of graduate studies;
  • R. Todd Kramer, assistant director of finance in Auxiliary Services;
  • Kimberly McFarlin, director of international affairs at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Social Sciences;
  • Mark Meckes, professor in the Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics; and
  • Roselle Ponsaran, assistant research director in the Department of Bioethics at the School of Medicine.

Remote operations also allowed them to work more efficiently, with additional meetings and better collaboration with Google docs. Their proposal focused on expanding Diversity 360 and ensuring compliance through performance reviews. 

Working with MediaVision, the group presented their idea to Robert Solomon, vice president for the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and Lou Stark, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs.

“Our project was the pinnacle of our year. With the event of George Floyd’s death and the health disparities that COVID-19 revealed, it underscored the need for what we were proposing. Our campus, like the rest of the U.S., needs to do something to confront racism in this country,” Ghazy and Norris said. “This was our little something.”