Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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University of Mary Washington introducing diversity forum for incoming freshmen

University of Mary Washington freshmen and transfers will be moving into their dorms Wednesday from 8:15 until noon. Returning students will move in Sunday, August 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

This year, UMW is doing something a little different for its freshmen orientation. The university has hired Brian C. Johnson to talk about diversity on Thursday at Dodd Auditorium. Leah Cox, UMW’s special assistant for diversity and inclusion, sent me a summary of the upcoming presentation:

Uses examples from modern film

Johnson’s creative presentation frames the diversity conversation through modern film. By sharing clips of well-known films and discussing the messages they consciously or unconsciously give, Johnson allows every student to see himself or herself as diverse. Students laugh and remember some of their favorite movies, and from there, an interactive presentation about multiculturalism can begin.

“Diversity” vs. “different”

Students learn about the concept of “diversity” – its associated values, expressions of identity, similarity, and the devaluation of “different.” They are asked to consider the concept of “culture” – its symbols, language, norms, and values in American society. The audience is challenged to care about “social justice” – power, oppression, ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Students are asked to make personal judgments about these issues and recognize that the opportunity for change exists within each of us.

You can learn more about UMW’s guest speaker here.

In February, the university’s board of visitors approved “UMW Principles on Diversity and Inclusion.”

The principles say UMW values diversity of “all forms,” including economic background, religion, race, sexual orientation and political affiliation. They also state that UMW seeks to provide a welcoming environment for people of “all backgrounds and identities.”

“The University of Mary Washington strives to create a climate of acceptance and will promote the values of diversity and inclusiveness,” the principles begin. “These values strengthen our community and are essential to our academic mission and institutional excellence.”