Lessons in Programming

By Luis H. Garay
@LuisHGaray

Last week was a week of multicultural programming at my current institution called “Unity Week”. Unity Week celebrates and shares different aspects of the diverse student populations. The week is filled with various programs (Giving Voice Troupe, Hair 101, and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes). One of the well-attended programs in that week is the Tunnel of Oppression program. (For more background information to this program, check out the following link which provides a history via Miami University Ohio http://www.units.muohio.edu/saf/reslife/tunnel/history.htm)

Last year as part of being a planning member of the Multicultural Committee, who is charged with programming Unity week, I chaired the Tunnel of Oppression event. This year I was able to resume my role and it was a full speed ahead since the end of last semester. I wanted to share what I have learned in my two years of planning this event

Do Not Be Afraid to Try New Things

Last year the Tunnel of Oppression program was through the work of a small group of actors who delved into topics of domestic abuse, racism, body image, and suicide. Following post-program discussions last year, this semester we decided to reach out to student organizations and classes that dealt with issues of diversity and/or social justice. As such, the topics this year were mental illness, homelessness, coming out in the LGBTQQIA community, body image, sex trafficking, and racism and The Civil Rights movement.

The idea to work with student organizations was a new way to present the same program. This new approach was beyond just curiosity in working with these organizations. The program was successful last year and reached a good number of people. However, in working with the Committee and the chair of Unity Week (the graduate assistant for Diversity), we all wanted to increase our reach of the program. We wanted to continue educating and advocating all while reaching as many people as possible.

Intentionality Is Key – What Do You Want Participants To Experience?

For those who have experienced Tunnel of Oppression before you know how emotionally charged the program can be for many. In our work in bringing this program to life we did not want to highlight oppression simply for shock value. If we wanted people to feel a certain emotion or really impact their experience student organizations had to find a way to convey that emotion. Because our student organizations were able to showcase a topic via a wide variety of mediums (acting, spoken word, videos, and posters to name a few), it allowed for creativity for each student organization.

Here is where intentionality was important. We did not want to do a topic or present in such a way “just because”. We had to ask ourselves, what do we want the Tunnel of Oppression participants to experience? What will their takeaways be? Learning objectives and outcomes are helpful in answering some of these questions. These same objectives and outcomes can afford the program shape: Is it passive? Is it active? Is meant to educate or advocate or both?

Teamwork and Collaboration

An event like Tunnel of Oppression is very much centered on teamwork and collaboration. It is the work of many people. In our case, it was the work of undergraduate and graduate students who came together for this event: we had both groups work on presentation of topics for the rooms, we had undergraduates volunteering to be tour guides, greeters, and safety response team people, and we had student affairs graduate students who facilitated a debriefing activity after experiencing the Tunnel. I would venture to say we had 40-50 undergraduate and graduate students demonstrating their volunteerism with this event.

For me, it was important for people who expressed praise and comments of “good job!” to let them know it was not just the work of me but a team I had the pleasure of working with. Also, spearheading this event taught me to take time to thank individuals for their time and volunteering. Our Tunnel of Oppression event ran for a little over 10 hours and we had many volunteer students and members of organizations who were with us for several hours. Without them, this event simply could not happen

Being at the helm of programming this event will always be one of my fondest memories during my graduate school experience. It was also an event when speaking about its future words such as “Oh, for next year we can…” because, well, graduation is almost here…but that’s a post for another time.

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What have been some lessons you have learned with programming? Tweet me your thoughts at @LuisHGaray, SAFirstYears Readers! Thanks for reading!

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