Interactive theater virtually explores diversity, inclusivity

 Interactive theater virtually explores diversity, inclusivity

In November 2019, a group of 59 selected leaders involved in diversity initiatives throughout the University were invited to attend training sessions that explored concepts such as unconscious bias and micro-inequities through the Diversity Interactive Theatre program. The dynamic learning modality brings to life the faces and emotions that often accompany the challenges of diversity and inclusion situations.

Throughout the fall and spring semesters in 2020, the University of Miami’s Office of Human Resources (HR) partnered with DeValk and Associates, LLC to quickly adapt to a virtual learning environment by offering unique workshops for leaders on the Coral Gables and Marine campuses. These customized sessions addressed the realities of adapting to remote work because of COVID-19. As of January 2021, an additional 160 University leaders have attended these sessions, with an overwhelming 100 percent satisfactory rating.

As part of the experience, participants interacted with professional actors virtually performing short dramatizations of workplace situations as catalysts to in-depth conversations about micro-inequities, diversity awareness, and respect. By staying in character after the scenario is over, the actors provided an unexpected and enlightening perspective on various issues. Participants were also immersed in each scenario by role-playing with colleagues to explore productive methods to tackle the topic at hand.

“The interactive theater experience is one of several programs that HR is offering to raise awareness and foster skill building of concepts related to diversity and inclusion,” said Mary Harper Hagan, vice president of Human Resources. “Fostering diversity in the workplace is not just about having a diverse workforce. It requires commitment to deepen our understanding so that all people, especially those from underrepresented groups, feel valued and can add value,” she added. “Starting with leaders, our aim is to provide a safe environment in which to explore and reflect upon our own reactions to create a more inclusive work environment for everyone.”

Because of its popularity, the Diversity Interactive Theatre will continue to be offered in the upcoming months to leaders and faculty members in collaboration with Faculty Affairs and the Faculty Senate. 

“This training encourages a deeper understanding with meaningful conversations around an existing topic that was electrified last year,” added Greg Brenner, assistant vice president for HR’s talent and organizational development. “It increases our comfort level by understanding emotions that surface while managing and experiencing different dimensions of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

All faculty and staff members have also been encouraged to participate in two online training programs through ULearnManaging Bias and Diversity: Inclusion in the Modern Workplace. Since introduced in October 2020, more than 6,200 employees across all campuses have completed both modules. In the coming months, those who have completed this training will have the opportunity to participate in additional facilitator-led discussions. These sessions will dive deeper into issues of racial inclusivity and will provide participants the tools to navigate workplace interactions.

“The culture of belonging at the University of Miami does not thrive without the support and respect of each other in our community and these learning experiences provide valuable insights that strengthen our understanding of ourselves and others,’’ Harper Hagan noted. 

The culture of belonging has been an effort from the early days when University of Miami President Julio Frenk arrived on campus, and it is part of a larger mission to transform lives with the recent 15-point plan—which reaffirms the president’s commitment to racial and ethnic equality.

All employees are encouraged to participate in other diversity and inclusion programming available throughout the University—including Employee Resource Groups, which are open to all employees. Learn more about the University’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

" Those were the best two hours I have invested in a training course, all year long! The time flew by because the interactive content was entertaining, engaging, educational, and enlightening. Imagine the increased positive results of awareness that we can achieve if the entire University staff were to be exposed to this content."

Monica Inguanzo, executive director, Development and Alumni Relations

“Aside from the fact that the role-playing made the session very engaging and kept my attention the whole time, one of my biggest takeaways from the Diversity Interactive Theatre is how much it opened my eyes to my own biases. As a black male, yes, I have felt the pain of racial bias my entire life, but I don’t often think about the fact that I’ve been the beneficiary of ‘male’ privilege. If we are going to make any headway in having a truly inclusive culture, then we all have to work on ourselves, while also challenging and holding others accountable for the same.

Richard Sobaram, executive director, Parking and Transportation

The Virtual Diversity Interactive Theatre session is well worth everyone’s time. The program provides a wonderful opportunity for members of the university community to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion that broaden your perspective. The actors portray real-world scenarios and the facilitators foster productive dialogue that respects differences of opinions while educating participants on nuances of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Renee Dickens Callan, executive director, Student Life


Division of Continuing and International Education

Division of Continuing and International Education