Community Conversations

Community Conversations 2021-2022

This year’s Community Conversations program strives to contribute to a climate of hope, inquisitiveness and personal/professional development. So, our theme this year is Engagement -- which borrows from a mindful leadership principle that all engagement, whether intended or not, is influenced by the social identities of the parties involved. Given this, our sessions will support participants in the development of specific frameworks: ones that acknowledge the social identities of those in the room; are guided by the purpose of the engagement (a meeting, class, etc.) and its hoped-for outcomes; and the development of the specific skills needed to contribute to successful mutually rewarding engagements.

Upcoming Programs


“When Getting Along is Not Enough”: March 8, 2022 from 12:45 pm to 2:30 pm

Register via Workday Learning

To close out this season’s forum, we have invited Wellesley’s own, Dr. Maureen Walker, (author, lecturer, psychologist and a member of the training faculty and leadership of the Jean Baker Miller Institute) to share highlights from her new book – mentioned above -- in the context of her personal and professional journeys.

The description of her book includes the following two illuminating statements:

“Now more than ever, race has become a morphing relational dynamic that has less to do with the demographic census box we check and more with how we make sense of our lives—who we are and who we can become in relationships with others. Using anecdotes from her practice as a licensed psychologist and as an African American growing up in the South, Walker provides a way for educators and social service professionals to enter into cross-racial discussions about race and race relations.”

And of importance for the work we are undertaking...

“The book’s vision is ultimately affirming, empowering, hopeful, and inclusive about the individual and collective power to heal our divisions and disconnections.”

Guest Speaker: Dr. Maureen Walker

Location: Zoom


Previous Programs

The Race Card: August 8, 2019

Increasingly, as a nation we are grappling with how to confront racism.  Some deny its existence, some prefer thinking about it in certain contexts, while some live with its impacts every day. Understanding the very personal manifestations of the social construct that is race, is one way to center our perspectives in dignity, empathy and respect.  It is also the way to better understand our own and others’ the experiences and to further develop our capacity to push for change. With this in mind, we invite you to join us in a very personal exploration of racial identity as we dive into Peabody Award winning journalist Michele Norris’ Race Card Project. Launched in 2010, this project has become an effective “vehicle for expression and voice” with people living in all 50 states and 90 countries sharing personal back stories, sentiments and hard truths rarely expressed out loud. 

Guest Speaker: Sonja Spears, Esq. – Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.


Knotty Problems Roundtable Discussions: November 19, 2019

Community Conversations is delighted to collaborate with Prof. Alex Diesl to bring you this special edition of “Knotty Problems Roundtable Discussions.” For the past six years, Alex has been running these sessions to provide opportunities for informal, cross-disciplinary, small group conversations about teaching. However, this special 2-hour edition, invites conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as well as inclusive excellence and belonging. As with the traditional Knotty Problems Sessions, this forum is open to all Wellesley College faculty and staff who are interested in a thoughtful, informal discussion about these timely matters. The format will be small group conversations, to allow everyone a chance to both speak and listen. Please come; ask questions; share concerns; exchange stories and ideas; and engage with others for whom these matters are compelling, challenging and/or thought-provoking. And, snacks will be provided!

Speaker: Prof. Alex Diesl


Tools for Leaning into Cross-Cultural Interactions: December 12, 2019

If you were asked to recall at least one occasion when you were interacting with one or more colleagues in either a work or social situation and you felt some tension or discomfort not directly related to actual work content, what might come up for you? When reflecting on the incident(s), are you pleased with the outcome(s) or do you wish you could have handled it better?  If the latter, you are not alone. This excellent presentation by Dr. Duncan Spelman will provide a set of excellent tools (some surprising) for managing such situations with skill and grace. Some pre-work is required.

Speaker: Dr. Duncan Spelman


Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am: February 3, 2020

In partnership with the Office of Intercultural Education, we bring the critically acclaimed documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am to campus. Though in the theaters for a surprisingly short time, one reviewer wrote, “Within minutes of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ new documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, it’s obvious that the distinguished author is a born storyteller. Her words are precious, perfectly placed in her melodic speech. Even her childhood memories come off as tiny epics, revealing some part of her, and by extension, some part of us in the process. Her reverence and awe at the power of the written word are as strong as ever. With a knowing smile, she revisits her memories in one-on-one style interviews, looking directly at the camera—at us—to tell her story. A chorus of scholars, critics and friends join her to sing praises for her work that she’s too modest to bring up herself." The screening will be followed by facilitated talk back.

Speaker: Akua Sarr - Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs at Boston College


Power & Privilege: June 18, 2020

While there seems to be a greater awareness of the use and abuse of privilege and power, many are still left wondering how, on an individual level, these two concepts impact day-to-day life and interactions, especially in the workplace, and how they relate to the broader issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  This virtual workshop will discuss the relationship of privilege, power, and oppression and how we can increase awareness of behaviors to decrease abuse of privilege in the workplace.
Speaker: Robert Amelio

The New Transformation Imperative: January 19, 2021 

We are delighted to introduce Dr. John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. to the Wellesley College Community. Dr. Wilson will highlight the critical need for more of us to go beyond merely being conformers and reformers, by finally becoming true transformers. Given that Dr. King's birthday is the day before this talk, he will use Dr. King's biography as an illustration of what it means to climb the ladder of those phases from aspiring to conform, through aspiring to reform, to aspiring to transform. He will then describe and discuss a new transformation imperative, and what it may look like once it is activated in our world, in our country, and in our colleges...yet, all beginning with the activation in ourselves. Dr. Wilson’s career in academia includes, college president (Morehouse College), senior academic administrator (MIT and George Washington University), executive director of President Obama’s White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and, more recently, senior adviser and strategist to the president of Harvard University relative to her Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging.


Facillitating Across Cultures: February 9, 2021 and February 18, 2021

With the Boston College Courageous Conversations Initiative as a model, this two-part program will train participants to effectively facilitate cross-cultural dialogues. More specifically, it will focus on technique as well as the processes of building strength and the other abilities needed to effectively lead and facilitate these extremely important, enlightening and sometimes challenging conversations.

Presenters: Karen Groce-Horan and Jayne Ogata


Navigating Whiteness: March 9, 2021 and March 16, 2021

Created especially for Wellesley College, this two-part conversation will be led by Laura Brewer, a nationally renowned leadership coach who supports social revolutionaries in their work to build change and justice. Participation in this program will provoke you to deepen your conviction to interrupt white supremacy conditioning in your own life and circle of influence and clarify your personal role in and practice of racial justice.

Presenter: Laura Brewer, Founder of Mean Well. Speak Well. Do Well., Inc.


Unpacking Gender and Privilege: April 8, 2021

Register via Workday Learning

Please join us for this interactive workshop that will support the Wellesley community as it continues to address systemic issues of gender bias, transphobia, and cis-gender privilege.  Within wider efforts of anti-racist practice and praxis, this workshop will serve as safe space in which to continue learning about transgender and non-binary identities and on LGBTQ inclusion through an intersectional lens. Using discussions and interactive activities, we will work through addressing gender privileges in various contexts. Join us to strategize about Wellesley’s areas of strength, potential for growth, and resources available to activate gender and LGBTQ equity across campus.

Presenter: Abigail Francis, LCSW


On Being An Active Antiracist: April 20, 2021

Register via Workday Learning

Anti-racism consultants Donna K. Bivens ’75 and Paul Marcus welcome you into this learning circle – a safe, if challenging, space in which to share your experiences, your insights, your struggles and hopes relative to being an effective and active anti-racist. Donna and Paul, who have been doing this work for many years, believe that there is no one way to be an anti-racist. You gain mastery by engaging, by questioning and learning, unlearning and relearning who you are. We will talk about the challenges and the myriad ways of demonstrating leadership, supporting those wanting to effect meaningful, lasting change. During this two-hour session we will have opportunities to work in both large and small groups to learn from each other, consider evolving strategies and determine the work that resonates with you most powerfully. Of equal importance, you and you colleagues will form a cohort group that you can lean on to learn and address issues as they emerge.

Presenter: Donna Bivens ‘75, and Paul Marcus


Class Matters: Thursday, October 28 from 12:45 pm to 2:30 pm

Register via Workday Learning

This forum, the fourth in our series on the impacts of socioeconomic differences at Wellesley and other “Historically Elite Colleges and Universities”, is an opportunity for our speaker to share our learnings about class matters at Wellesley from past sessions and to determine what has changed. As a group, we will consider what comes up for/or at us and others, when community members come together across lines of economic class and social status. We will identify the personal and institutional forces that influence these cross-cultural engagements and develop strategies for learning more, supporting colleagues and students, and suggesting/promoting appropriate change initiatives.

Presenter: Joanie Parker, representing Class Action


Creating and Sustaining Both Safe and Brave Spaces: Wednesday, November 10 and Monday, November 15 from 12:45 pm to 2:15 pm

Register via Workday Learning

These spaces are formed with intentionality. Safe Spaces are a haven for one or more individuals needing to be heard, supported and mentored. While Brave Spaces are places for challenging and animated conversations among a diverse groups of individuals. Both require outstanding facilitation skills.

These two sessions are focused on developing both the mindsets and practices necessary to create inclusive environments for learning. Participants will explore various ways to foster both Safe and Brave spaces in intentional ways that allow students and peers to feel a sense of belonging without sacrificing their authenticity. We will also explore strategies for navigating difficult conversations in ways that promote greater understanding, skills transfer, deeper connections and learning.

Presenter: Katherine Lampley, Chief Diversity Officer, Bentley University


Mastering Internal Responses to Difficult Conversations: January 18, 2022

Register via Workday Learning

This session is for those whose initial reactions to such conversations is, Oh no!, What now! Not me! And builds on the one before it. Drawing on the model created by Kathy Obear, at the Center for Transformational Change, this session will explore proven techniques for: helping meeting participants to bond; enabling the facilitator to recognize and manage their own personal responses/reactions; and understanding and navigating hot button and triggering events. Through discussion, practice exercises and thoughtful feedback/tutoring, participates will leave with greater knowledge and skills relative to self-management and facilitating /managing challenging but important conversations.

Presenter: Madison Thompson, Interactive Associates facilitator and trainer