Adjustments made to fall Moreau First Year Experience shifts focus on diversity and inclusion
Lyric Medeiros | Tuesday, November 3, 2020
A two-semester, graded course sequence, the Moreau First Year Experience helps new students integrate their academic, co-curricular and residential experiences. This year’s class of first years recently completed their diversity and inclusion unit. However, the lesson plan appeared different from that of past years.
Andrew Whittington, one of the co-directors of the Moreau program, said one great differences between this year and last year is all those involved in coordinating the course hoped to create a streamline for talking about inclusion and the value of diversity throughout the entire semester.
“Regardless if our topics are explicitly on belonging at Notre Dame, or academic success or academic rigor, the spirit of inclusion is present in that conversation even if it is not specifically titled that,” Whittington said.
Moreau advisers have been trained to use a dosing technique in which they are constantly introducing language, the Notre Dame community values and ways to engage in difficult conversations throughout the entire semester, so that when they move into more specific discussions, the topics are not entirely brand new to the first year students.
Lauren Donahue, co-director of the Moreau program, explained her team has decided to take more of the micro lens to approaching diversity, which prompts students to conduct a deep introspection look into who they are, their identities and what is most salient for them.
“This self-awareness enables them to be more open and to consider other identities and experiences, and how they differ from them[selves],” Donahoe said.
In addition to starting at that micro level and talking about the students’ identities first, another change this year is when the course addressed implicit bias, which is usually taught in the spring semester. Donahue believes introducing topics early on, then revisiting them, allows the first years to have a more foundational, shared experience.
“Last week’s lesson on diversity and inclusion has been really helpful in transitioning into a community that I am not used to,” first year Caroline Bender said. “It’s taught me a lot about how to live in a community with so much diversity and how to grow in this community.”
She said her Moreau class focused on talking about different strategies, like having civil discussions with people who may not share similar beliefs or are from different backgrounds.
Bender said one thing her class really emphasized was civil discourse and how to have respectful conversations to foster growth not division.
Bender and her classmates were provided various strategies on how to speak with people from different backgrounds in a respectful manner. She learned conversation tips she had not previously considered.
“I think it really helps to have these strategies, so that we are able to use them in everyday conversations,” Bender said.
First year Eleanor Rey also spoke highly of last week’s course material, saying it was different, but eye opening.
Rey said her professor placed an emphasis on microaggressions, teaching what they are and how people tend to frequently overlook them.
“I realized how much I use microaggressions in daily life and how easy it is to stop using them, and to use a different type of language if you are curious about someone else’s culture,” Rey explained. “By doing this, you avoid hurting someone else’s feelings and invite community-building, instead of breaking down another with microaggressions, which most of the time are made without ill intentions.”
While the topic of diversity and inclusion can be a sensitive subject for some students to speak about, Rey and Bender said their Moreau advisers had done a great job in making their discussions comfortable for them.
Rey said her Moreau teacher has made it easy for her and her classmates to talk in class. She said he always speaks first after posing a question to the class, making the students feel comfortable in what can be a very nerve-racking period for the new college students.
“We are really open in our Moreau class. We talk about everything and anything,” Rey said. “My adviser is the best. I find it extremely easy to share my thoughts with the class, and I think they feel the same way.”