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Diversity 101

Page history last edited by Brandi Jackson 9 years, 3 months ago


Diversity 101


Maggie Viverette

September 9, 2014

10:00am - 12:00pm

University Center

Cypress Room

2 Course Hours


Course Objectives:

  • Explore the definition of cultural diversity
  • Become culturally competent and a cultural ally
  • Understand why cultural competence and being an ally is important for educators
  • Identify assumptions and stereotypes
  • Understand how to make a difference in the workplace



  1. Confidentiality (the Vegas rule)
  2. Ouch! Then educate (notify of offensive statement then explain why it was offensive)
  3. No judgment
  4. Support each other
  5. Open up and share experiences


The Silent Interview: 

After reviewing the course objectives and rules, we were asked to partner with someone with whom we were not familiar.  We were given six questions to answer without talking to our partner.  The answers were derived from inferences we made about our partner's appearance alone.  We were not allowed to talk to each other during this exercise, as this was about bringing attention to stereotypes that we may not have known were a part of our beliefs.  Most of the partnerships learned that it is difficult to make correct inferences of a stranger and that we should take time to get to know one another despite appearances.  I partnered with Lorena, a cohort that I had yet to reach out to prior to this course.  I have always taken pride in my wonderful judge of character, which still has not failed me.  I was one of the only ones to correctly guess all six answers. The questions and answers are as follows:

  1. Where are you from? Georgia
  2. What is your favorite food? Southern comfort foods
  3. What is your favorite type of music? Indie rock/Jazz
  4. What are your hobbies? Singing & playing the guitar
  5. What were you like as a child? Quiet
  6. How many siblings do you have? 3

The fact that I was able to correctly guess all six of those answers amazed me.  The answers were strictly gathered from information I picked up from her appearance, voice, and side conversations that were taking place before class.  The overall purpose of this exercise is to illustrate that we all make assumptions and judgments using stereotypes.


The History of Diversity: 

To better understand diversity, we must take a look at the history of diversity.  We discussed the last five decades of diversity to see the evolution of this construct.  The Sixties began the Civil Rights Movement.  Individuals who were repressed and underprivileged fought for equality, rights, and respect.  In the Warren court case, we see that legislation was passed allowing individuals to claim lawsuits against state-level police and employees.  The Seventies are best known for affirmative action, which opened the doors for equal employment, advertising positions to all, and creating dimensions to diversity (ethnicity/nationality, gender, race, disability, and military veterans) in an attempt to decrease discrimination.  Affirmative action opened the door for equal representation, thus remedying the severity of discrimination that existed in the past.  The Eighties were very important as organizations began to realize the importance of diversity.  Diversity was seen as something to be envied because it created larger workforces, increased profitability, and reduced workplace conflict.  In order to prepare current employees for a more diversified workforce, businesses integrated diversity officers to help build and develop relationships.  The Nineties paved the way using the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Employers were no longer able to ask if individuals had disabilities, colleges were required to make programs and the campus in general more accessible to those with disabilities, and businesses were required to place curb cuts in the sidewalk and have a set number of handicapped parking spaces.  From the 2000s on, diversity was harnessed to strengthen teamwork because those from different cultural backgrounds bring new perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the proverbial table.  Diversity was recognized as being extremely valuable to organizations for multiple reasons.


The Iceberg Exercise

Maggie Viverette instructed the class to think of different dimensions of diversity and place them on an iceberg.  The dimensions were either visible (above the water line), invisible (below the water line), or both (on the water line).  The class agreed on two dimensions being clearly visible (age and visual impairments) because these dimensions can be seen and are clearly evident to employers without having to ask.  At this time, we discussed ageism and discrimination against the visually impaired and how these two dimensions are treated in the professional world.  We then discussed dimensions that would not be clearly visible.  Learning disabilities and mental disabilities are obvious as to why we categorized them below the line.  These dimensions are items that are discriminated against in many social settings but these disabilities are not clear to the eye unless the information is either volunteered or inquired.  We categorized ethnicity below the line because ethnicity is not clearly evident unless the information is inquired or volunteered.  One cannot identify if an individual is from Australia or South Africa.  People that originate from certain countries can be discriminated against in the professional world just as severely as someone with a learning disability.  However, we could not decide if certain dimensions belong above or below the line so we categorized them to sit on the line.  The seven dimensions listed on the line on Figure 1 are vague and can be either evident or discrete. For example, sexual orientation is slightly below the line but depending on one's gender expression, sexual orientation can be catapulted above the line.  These seven dimensions depend on the individual and how much information that individual wishes to divulge to a prospective employer.  It is interesting to note that most of the dimensions listed on Figure 1 are not visually accessible and require inquisitions to learn about those dimensions.  This particular exercise is very useful in enlightening individuals on how others view and value diversity dimensions.


Figure 1:


















The Video

After the iceberg exercise, we watched a five minute video (this clip is just a portion of the five minute video as the full video was found) of select images that was something very familiar but presented in a different method than what we were used to.  Our assignment was to guess the object in the video without any clues as to the identity of the object.  The class was given very little information and we were charged with determining the object's identity.  The guesses that were presented are: an eye, a cotton seed, an egg, an embryo, a flower, a bar of soap, an orange peel, and an egg shell.  All of the guesses were incorrect.  Near the end of the video, the object opened up into a white, fluffy looking substance.  We came together as a class and identified the object as a popcorn kernel popping in slow motion.  This video solidified the epiphany the iceberg exercise enlightened us to - diversity cannot be determined be visual means.


What is Diversity?

Now that we have a rudimentary understanding of diversity and the benefits of a diverse cohort, we discussed what is diversity through "-isms" and being a cultural ally.  In terms of "-isms," diversity is what we are exposed to in our environment (i.e., the values and beliefs of our parents, media, professors, and friends).  Our individual "-isms" are how we categorize and value diverse cultural others.  These "-isms" can be changed depending on how open-to-change the individual is and if the "-isms" are discriminatory and offensive.  Next, we discuss how to be a cultural ally. First, we must be aware of the information around us. This means that we must ensure the information is accurate before passing judgments or if the information needs to be revised.  To apply this concept, we participated in the dot activity.  Maggie strategically placed colored dots on each classmates back. We were instructed to pair ourselves according to dot color without looking at our own dot and without verbal or written communication.  We relied on other people to group us together according to dot color.  At the end of the exercise, three groups were formed: (a) a large group with blue dots, (b) a smaller group with green dots, and (c) a single person "group" with a yellow dot.  We were asked how we felt being grouped according to how others perceived us.  The larger group felt powerful and close-knit.  The smaller group felt as if they were missing out, while the single person "group" was expected to feel isolated but the opposite was the case.  The single person "group" felt special and unique.  The purpose of this exercise was to experience discrimination first-hand.  The second step for becoming a cultural ally is to identify situations which people are disadvantaged and advocate for that person.  The most common question is whether or not advocating for the disadvantaged person is worth the risk. However, if we would like to see the further advancement of diversity, we must work towards becoming a cultural ally and advocating for what is right.


Final Thoughts

I was able to learn a lot from this course and apply it to what I have learned in class.  The exercises (i.e., the video, the dot activity, and the iceberg activity) proved to be most beneficial.  The iceberg activity was very informing about how other people perceive diverse dimensions.  The dot activity served as a means for us to experience discrimination and being judged and grouped by others' perceptions.  The popcorn video showed us that even when we think we know something, we can be mislead.



Notes, Handouts, and Certificates

Diversity 101 PowerPoint.pptx

Diversity 101 Notes 09:09:14.pdf

Diversity 101 Certificate.pdf









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