Build understanding, build trust

You’re a cop. He’s a suspect. The situation’s deadly. What do you do?

Your action may depend, in part, on your perception. How and why perception influences decision-making is something Faith Lutze, associate professor of criminal justice, wanted her students to explore — especially since their careers may involve them in life-or-death decisions.

She incorporated training prepared by the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) and offered by WSU into her course on ethics in criminal justice. 

“I wanted an interactive process that got everyone to think about what groups they identify with and how that influences their perceptions of others,” she said. “The NCBI training was … an excellent way to integrate diversity into the course.”

Lutze is considering incorporating the training in other classes and hopes eventually to create a one-credit NCBI-based course to build cultural competence in her students.

Finding common ground
That is exactly what Jeff Guillory hopes will happen throughout the university. Guillory, diversity education manager for the Office of Equity and Diversity, directs the NCBI training program for WSU.

“Our approach to diversity is not to focus on feeling guilty,” he said. “We … explore misunderstandings and confusions that result when people interact. From this we can see what we have in common, and from that we build an environment of trust and respect. We’ve found everyone eager to be a part of this.”

Guillory’s goal is to make the NCBI training “part of the WSU fabric, part of the curriculum.”  For those who take the full four-hour training, he provides a completion certificate, which is useful when applying for jobs that require evidence of experience or training in multicultural values or expectations in the workplace.

He wants to provide classes that individuals can take, as well as options tailored for a group’s organizational culture. 

Engaging the group
For an example of group training, Guillory cited the diversity program provided to the 40 supervisors in Facilities Operations last spring.
The purpose of the program was preventive, according to Ev Davis, associate vice president for facilities operations.

“We always try to improve our communication,” he said. “Diversity is not just an ethnic or gender issue. People look at the same situation from different perspectives and see it differently. We all need to better understand diversity.

“The training was very worthwhile,” Davis said. “Everyone was engaged, and several asked for more sessions. I would recommend this to other units on campus, especially for supervisors. We’ll be doing a follow-up this fall to pick up where we left off.”

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