Earlier this fall, Heritage had the opportunity to facilitate what may be one of the most important conversations of our times — racial equity and justice in our democratic society. The town hall-style panel discussion, which you can read more about in this issue of Wings, was at times uncomfortable. It was an evening of high emotions, conflict and controversy. We knew going into the project that this would be the case. So why then did Heritage lead the way on this forum? It is because not only do we believe that, as a university, we should be on the forefront in efforts to promote social justice, we also feel that engaging students in activities where there are vastly different points of view helps to better prepare them for success in their future careers.
Here at Heritage we pride ourselves on our ability to prepare our students for success in STEM-related careers and in professional careers in health care, education and business. At the same time, we fully concur with business and civic leaders that more important than a student’s major is his or her development of the four C’s: critical reasoning skills, collaboration, creative problem solving and communication. Whatever one’s field of concentration, these are the traits that will help a young person navigate a rapidly changing landscape.
Engaging in conversations with others whose life perspectives are different from our own helps us to develop these four C’s. We build empathy. We improve our capacity to work with individuals and groups of varied cultures. We expand our own thinking and become better at articulating our thoughts. Young professionals must not only “do,” but must also clarify what they are doing and persuade others that they have the best way to accomplish the task at hand. Likewise, as citizens they will be able to analyze ethical issues and argue
persuasively for the positions they have reached after careful thinking.
The community values of justice and democracy can be maintained only if young graduates can address issues of social justice through careful listening, sensitive reflection on evidence, logical arguments and clear communication. It is through participation in conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable, such as the Race and Justice Forum, that they will find their voices and become the leaders who will effect change in our communities.
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