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'Diversity Dialogues' to focus on unconscious bias

This spring, MIT is offering faculty, staff and students the chance to participate in Diversity Dialogues, a series of conversations on unconscious bias and its unintended consequences.

The sessions, organized in response to requests made during the small group discussions at November's Diversity Leadership Congress, are based on a model developed and used by Robbin Chapman, manager of diversity recruitment for the School of Architecture and Planning. They include a 15-minute workshop followed by hands-on practice and facilitated discussion.

The goal of the dialogues, which begin April 16 and continue into May, is to increase self-awareness in order to more-effectively communicate with others. The dialogues will be facilitated by volunteers across the MIT community who have been trained by Chapman.

Debbie Berechman, executive director of the MIT Sloan MBA program and one of the workshop facilitators, said the dialogues represent a powerful means of engaging all constituencies across the MIT community.

"I'm thrilled that this model is evolving across MIT and I strongly encourage everyone -- especially those who might not ordinarily choose to engage -- to take advantage of this opportunity to explore a topic that affects us all," Berechman said.

In the future, organizers plan to offer similar dialogue opportunities on other topics related to diversity and inclusion.

For a schedule of the sessions and other information on MIT's diversity initiatives, visit

The dialogue opportunities are jointly sponsored by the Committee on Race and Diversity, Council on Staff Diversity, Student Activities Office, Graduate Student Council and Undergraduate Association.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 15, 2009 (download PDF).

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