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College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Dialogues on Race

The Diversity Research and Action Consortium at George Mason University will host a series of workshops for students, staff, and faculty surrounding the topic of race. Drs. Fred Bemak and Joseph Williams seek to advance innovative practices in higher education that promote respectful, transformative dialogue on controversial topics and complex social issues, thereby reflecting a commitment to diversity, academic freedom, and continuous dialogue. The facilitation of the Dialogues on Race is consistent with the mission of the Diversity Research and Action Consortium and aims to create a more harmonious, respectful, and appreciative environment as it relates to issues of race and diversity within the GMU campus.

The Diversity Research and Action Consortium (DRAC), Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME) and the Housing and Residence Life Department offer compelling evidence that many people in the GMU community (i.e., students, faculty, and staff) are interested in a discussion of race and diversity. The Dialogues on Race will help people understand how to have that discussion in ways that will change attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior on a more profound level.

This project is designed to assist students, staff, and faculty in understanding how to engage in meaningful and honest dialogues on race. The aim is to facilitate dialogues that will enhance participants' self-efficacy and confidence in engaging in honest, open, and constructive discussions about race and race relations with other students in their classrooms and in the university, with staff and faculty in the university community, and with their families. The project intentionally incorporates students, staff, and faculty into the discussions with an aim to help promote a more engaged university community where students, staff, and faculty can also participate in open discussions with each other.

The dialogues are designed to be held twice a semester, for a total of 4 during the academic year. Two of the dialogues will be scheduled in advance and two dialogues will be “on-call” dialogues that will be scheduled in response to catalyzing events nationally or internationally that provoke racial tensions and anxiety (such as the Trayvon Martin incident). The 2 “on-call” dialogues will be offered one each semester, and will permit flexibility and responsiveness to critical situations that can be built into the Dialogues on Race series. These additional sessions will ensure that students, staff, and faculty have a safe place to talk about important current issues within and across racial boundaries. The Dialogues on Race series at Mason seeks to foster honest, open, and constructive dialogue about some of society's most difficult and contentious issues regarding race and issues related to race such as poverty, religion, public policy, social justice, multiculturalism, the media, etc.

A minimum of 50 students, faculty, and staff are expected at each dialogue session for a total of 200 participants during the academic year. The dialogue series will support participants in developing an Action Plan at the end of each of the 4 sessions. It is anticipated that each participant will potentially impact (a minimum) of 5 individuals with what they learned during the session, that will be part of the Action Plan. Thus the program has the potential to impact 1,000 individuals within the GMU campus.

George Mason University Convenes Leaders to Discuss School Violence

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Race Dialogue: Implications of the Death of Trayvon Martin

The Counseling and Development Program hosted a panel discussion on the many aspects of the recent Trayvon Martin case. In particular, Dr. Joseph Williams organized and facilitated a public forum held at George Mason University in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin. The purpose of the forum was to provide a platform for open, honest, and constructive dialogue among students, faculty, staff, and community members on such topics as individual and institutional racism, stereotypes of Black masculinity, gun control laws, hate crimes against young Black men, the myth of a post-racial United States, and what we can do as citizens to prevent such tragedies in the future. The event is free and open to the public.

The panelists included: Rutledge Dennis, professor of sociology and anthropology at GMU; George McMahon, assistant professor of counseling and development at GMU; Mark Hopson, assistant professor of communications at GMU; Tremayne D. Robertson, associate director of university information at GMU; Walter Parrish III, assistant director, office of diversity, inclusion and multicultural education at GMU; and Reston Bell, school psychologist and doctoral student at GMU.

The panel discussion was held on April 25th, sponsored by the counseling program and the Diversity Research and Action Consortium at George Mason University (GMU), and attended by close to 80 members of GMU and the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) community.

Conference on Protection of Unaccompanied and Separated Children

The George Mason University Diversity Research and Action Consortium co-sponsored and hosted The Conference on the Protection of Unaccompanied and Separated Children from October 22-24th, 2008. The conference was held at the George Mason University Fairfax campus. Co-sponsors and funders for this global conference included the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration from the U.S. Department of State; Citizenship and Immigration Services from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Office of Refugee Resettlement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The conference funded people from 47 countries to attend and had federal agency directors and deputy directors as well as senior level government officials from the United States and around the world who participated as invited speakers. Speakers addressed the issues facing the more than 1.2 million children who are trafficked each year and the1.6 million children who are unaccompanied or separated from their parents and now among populations of refugees, the internally displaced, stateless people, migrants, and asylum seekers. These children are vulnerable to exploitation for sex, forced labor, neglect of their needs, and denial of their rights.

Please see the website at for further information about the conference and selected presentation from the conference.