Race and Equity

Be inspired: Alumni and students work together to interrupt privilege

Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications Terri Hiroshima

Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications Terri Hiroshima

UWAA Communications and Media Editor Misty Shock Rule sat down with Terri Hiroshima, Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications. Hiroshima co-coordinated the UWAA pilot program Interrupting Privilege, an alumni and student seminar that launched this past fall quarter.

In partnership with UW’s Center for Communication, Diversity, and Equity (CCDE) directed by Dr. Ralina Joseph, the UWAA produced a first-time program that convened a small cohort of 25 alumni and 20 undergraduate students to explore the topics of race, equity and privilege through a combination of lectures and discussions.

Q:        How did the alumni and student seminar Interrupting Privilege come about?

A:         Like many UWAA events and programs, the idea came straight from a few alumni. Survey feedback praised last year’s thought-provoking “Equity & Difference lectures but left alumni asking, “So what happens now? How can we get more involved?” We sensed their interest and commitment to learning and doing more, and seized the opportunity to provide a challenging next step: let’s send them back to class!


Dr. Ralina Joseph of the UW’s Center for Communication, Diversity, and Equity (CCDE)

Q:        Is this where the CCDE comes in?

A:         Exactly. In late May, a group of UWAA staff and a board member met with Prof. Joseph and her team to discuss a class environment that could provide a space for alumni and students to exchange ideas around the topic of race and equity. Prof. Joseph had already been designing a two-credit class around the topic of interrupting privilege and welcomed the intergenerational component that alumni participants would bring.

Q:        Did alumni actually take a class for the entire quarter, did they do homework?

A:         Yes and no. Each alum committed to attending and participating in the complete seminar — they came to the Seattle campus for three lectures, pre-lecture group discussions, a drop-in at two classes and participation in a two-hour workshop facilitated by Robin DiAngelo. Featured lectures were all offerings from the Graduate School Public Lectures series, another long-time partner for the Alumni Association.

To prep for the experience, alumni used the same syllabus, which included reading, viewing and blogging assignments. However, unlike the students, they didn’t have to create a video toolkit for their final assignment!

Q:        What’s the goal of this type of program and did you reach it?

A:         The goal of the program stems from the UWAA mission of engaging our alumni and strengthening their connection to the UW. What better way to do that than to pair them with undergraduates in a quarter-long “deep dive” program that allows for making personal connections, exploring complex topics through the eyes of current students and enjoying the learning process beyond sitting in a lecture hall?

We definitely reached the goal and then some. It was clear at the seminar’s culmination event when one alum in the cohort asked, “What’s next, is there another level class we can take?” Now we get to figure out how to grow this program so that it’s sustainable and continues to engage alumni in a significant way.

Q:        What was the biggest surprise — did anything happen that you didn’t expect?

A:         How the presidential election results affected the class. Prof. Joseph had scheduled an in-class, post-election discussion for November 9 with a special guest, UW Assistant Prof. Megan Ming Francis (Dept. of Political Science). Prof. Francis had delivered a fall lecture, “Race and Violence in American Politics” earlier in the quarter, and we had agreed that this would be an excellent round-up discussion, based on the assumption that we would be ushering in the election of the first female American President. Instead, we had a group of students and alumni who, like the rest of the country, were in a bit of shock and disbelief. The wisdom of Profs. Joseph and Francis as they offered a historical lens to their teaching that night — about how elections work, about the Civil Rights movement, about the tenets of racism, about what our choices are now — left us all feeling more centered and focused.