Two doctoral students create Critical Dialogue Series to discuss diversity issues

Thursday, March 25, 2021
UNH campus sunset

It started with a conversation: Shantel Palacio and Nathan Harris, two students in the Ph.D. Education program were troubled by the hesitation they saw in classes when confronting diversity and race issues.

“I noticed that people were uncomfortable talking about it, or didn’t have the words to talk about it,” Palacio said. “When you don’t have a language to talk about something, the topic loses the essence and impact—it deprives everyone in the room. We knew that if this uncomfortableness was happening in our classes, it’s happening in other places too.”

Harris added, “If we can’t have conversations about race and diversity issues here in class, where we are structured to do this, how are we going to confront or have these conversations out in the world?”

From this question, “Beyond the Border: A Critical Dialogue Series” was born.

Hosted by the Graduate School and the Advisory Board for Underrepresented Graduate Students (ABUGS), the dialogue series pairs New Hampshire-based experts with their peers outside of the state to engage a range of subjects. The idea is to create a safe space for people to ask questions and learn about diversity and race with both a local and non-local perspective.

“The key to the conversation’s depth is in the title ‘Beyond the Border,’” Harris said. “We wanted to include people from and outside of New Hampshire to look at differences and similarities. […] This is a critical piece—an opportunity to go beyond our borders and learn with others. When we bring in other perspectives, we see that a lot of the same problems exist in different places, even if they’re dealt with differently.”

The first talk, titled “Diversity is a Dirty Word,” paired Dottie Morris, associate vice president for institutional diversity and equity at Keene State College, with Rachel Godsil, co-founder of Perception Institute and professor at Rutger’s Law School. Facilitated by Kate Slater (PhD Education ’20) and Palacio, the conversation focused on the word “diversity”—both the limitations and opportunities that the word elicits. The talk, held over Zoom in December 2020, saw over 100 registrants.

“The first talk was incredible,” Palacio said. “Both Dottie and Rachel talked about diversity being the mother of innovation, not just within the borders of our state, but within our own personal boundaries as well.”

Since then, there have been two additional talks. “Meritocracy is a Dirty Word” focused on the equality of educational opportunity. This talk featured two superintendents, Mauriciere de Govia of the New York City Department of Education and Jahmal Mosley of the Nashua Public Schools in New Hampshire, and was facilitated by Palacio and professor of education Joseph Onosko.

Following that, “A New Word for Policing” focused on understanding what public safety means for building safe communities. The talk featured two commissioners, Robert Quinn of New Hampshire and Benjamin B. Tucker of the New York Police Department, and was facilitated by Palacio and Jerika L. Richardson of the National Urban League.

Up next in the series is a special edition talk featuring two graduates from Phillips Exeter Academy, Grammy-nominated artist John Forté and principal at KPMG Eric Logan. Titled “A Hip-Hop Mogul & A Financier: Words on Access and Success,” it will connect the fields of performing arts and finance as it pertains to racial equity. The talk will occur on Wendesday March 31, 12-1:15pm.

“This is a starting place,” Palacio said. “We provide a framework to have the conversation, and at the very least, it gives people some tools to start talking.”

Register for "A Hip-Hop Mogul & A financier" March 31, 12-1:15pm