Centering gender, power, and privilege: Barry Jenkins kicks off second annual Diversity Summit


Julianna Treene, Contributing Writer

The idea for the annual Diversity Summit first developed out of the University’s Five-Year Diversity Plan and sprang to life in March 2016 with the goal of promoting and encouraging diversity and inclusion across campus. The summit calls on the entire University community—from students and faculty members to facilities and food services staff—to join the conversation and facilitate change.

This year marks the University’s second annual Diversity Summit, which is themed “Identity, Inclusion & Social Transformation: Centering Gender, Power, and Privilege.” This year’s summit aims to build and strengthen awareness surrounding issues of gender equity and inclusivity on campus. With a focus on gender, power, and privilege, the organizers of the summit hope to provide the campus community with the proper knowledge and skills necessary to create relevant and meaningful change on campus and beyond.

The summit kicked off on March 28 with a Community Dinner sponsored in part by the University Alumni Association. More than 150 students, faculty, and staff were in attendance, with keynote speaker Barry Jenkins, director of “Moonlight,” also making an appearance. Over the next day, more than 20 workshops on various topics related to gender, power, and privilege were hosted by members of the University community.

“My hope is that each person will be able to walk away from a given session with a better understanding of how they fit in the conversation. All of us, regardless of our gender, power or privilege, have a responsibility to recognize our role in creating a more inclusive campus community,” Diversity & Inclusion Fellow Dr. Carmen Henne-Ochoa said.

The dinner included a “mini gender experiment” where each guest was randomly assigned a color that represented a specific gender identity. The genders ranged from cis and trans males and females, to non-binary and gender fluid individuals. At each table, there was an individual who was planted with a script, acting as an offensive and oppressive cis male. Although it was uncomfortable for some, the activity allowed everyone at the table to experience firsthand what it is like to be a member of a marginalized group and represented the much larger issue of the oppression and microaggressions millions of individuals face every day.

The Community Dinner was immediately followed by the keynote address from Barry Jenkins, writer and director of the award-winning film, “Moonlight.” Jenkins characterized himself as a melancholic optimist: one who hopes things are good even when he knows that they are not. He highlighted the importance of the balance between the intellectual understanding of filmmaking and enjoyment of the practice of filmmaking.

“The world is very big but cinema can make it very small,” Jenkins said. Essentially, although all individuals have distinctly different backgrounds, this does not mean that they cannot have similar cinematic experiences.

The summit continued the following day with a series of panels, workshops, discussions and other creative presentations led by students, faculty, and staff.

Workshops such as “Personal Journeys of Identity and Transformation,” led by Professor of Psychology Chris Boyatzis, Associate Professor of Psychology Kim Daubman, Associate Professor of Psychology Bill Flack, and Assistant Professor of Psychology Jasmine Mena, “invited participants to reflect on how their understanding of power and privilege has been shaped by personal experiences. Through discussion, we realized the importance of crossing boundaries to engage in a deep way with people whose experiences have been different,” Daubman said.

Facilitated dialogues such as “Women and Finance” led by Assistant Director of Experiential Programs Missy Gutkowski, President of the Women in Finance Club Kortney Klingert ’18, Mamta Badlani ’18, Lynette Santhakumar ’19, and Melissa MacPherson ’19 concerning cisgender and transgender women working in financial services. The co-hosts posed questions such as: “How can we change those environments to be more inviting to employees who identify as women? Should men make themselves more approachable? How can we change the perspective of others to empower women to aspire to the positions they want in financial services? Should women change themselves to connect more to men?”

“In general, as women further their careers, they are diverted to focus more on their family or tend to be intimidated by the male heavy atmospheres. Women tend to switch to smaller companies that will allow them to focus on family, which eliminates women from having a strong presence in the finance industry,” Klingert said.

The Featured Panel, “Male Allies and Advocates for Gender Equity,” consisted of seven male faculty and staff members and focused on what they had learned during their experiences participating in the Men’s Allyship Training led by a group from North Dakota State University. They addressed questions such as “What does it mean to be an ally?” and “What are some things we as allies can do to influence change?” They addressed questions from the audience and discussed how being an ally involves wanting to learn more about issues surrounding gender and working together in conversation.

The Diversity Summit concluded on March 29 with a 7 p.m. presentation by Abby Dobson as part of the Griot Institute for Africana Studies’ spring series, The Black Body (Re)Considered. Dobson is a successful multimedia performer that works with the Say Her Name Project, created by the African American Policy Forum. The project aims to address black women’s experiences of police brutality and violence, an issue that has been largely associated with black male victims.

When asked about what she thought of the main take-away from Dobson’s presentation and the Diversity Summit as a whole, Professor of English and the Director of the Griot Institute for Africana Studies Carmen Gillespie said, “I think it’s extremely important to deconstruct the abstract concepts of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and make them tangible and meaningful to our community here at Bucknell.”

“I loved the Diversity Summit because it was a very diverse group of people and it was interesting to see how professors and staff view aspects of the University’s culture compared to students,” Christina Sweeney ’19 said.

The overwhelming success of this year’s Diversity Summit creates anticipation for the years to come and will hopefully encourage students to facilitate change on campus.

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