What is the Opening Doors Diversity Awareness Retreat?

LaTosha Bradley

door opening into gardenIn collaboration with the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will offer its ninth annual Opening Doors retreat. This year’s retreat will be held on September 12-14, 2018 at the Eastern 4-H Center in Columbia, NC. The retreat is absolutely free for all NC State employees and close affiliates. Meals, lodging and transportation are included. Outside organizations are welcome to join for a fee of $500 for non-profit agency employees and $700 for private industry business employees.

Opening Doors is a three-day retreat that provides a framework for increasing diversity awareness and enhances a person’s ability to create an inclusive organization. The overall goal of Opening Doors is to facilitate both personal growth and systemic organizational change. The retreat provides for open discussion, self-examination and an objective analysis of our social system as well as a constructive means to bridging differences through understanding personal responsibility. Participants develop constructive methods of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.

We recently interviewed LaTosha Bradley of the CALS Office of Diversity and Inclusion to learn more about this longstanding program.

Q: CALS has offered the Opening Doors retreat in partnership with OIED for many years. How many participants have gone through the program?

A: The program has been in place since about 2006. There have been over 300 participants over the years.

Q: How long have you personally been involved, what is your position within CALS, and what is your role in Opening Doors?

A: I have been involved in Opening Doors since I began working with the CALS Diversity office in 2011. I attended the retreat myself in February 2012. I am currently the administrative associate for the CALS diversity director. I have historically been responsible for the logistical aspects of the program, such as registration, promotion of the program to the university community, facility reservation, transportation, participant communication, program participant evaluation report generation and program follow-up.

Q: Do you hope to target a specific audience this year who may not be familiar with the program and would benefit from the experience?

A: Our office would like to make sure more of the university community is aware of the program and have a better opportunity to register for the limited seats the yearly sessions offer.

Q: Have you seen an impact on campus from the program, and in what ways?

A: The main and most important impact we notice is an almost universal agreement, among those who have the opportunity to attend, that conversations about diversity are essential to creating successful working environments in the university community. Participants have consistently stated that the manner in which the conversations are organized and structured in the Opening Doors Workshop promotes growth through inspiring a greater self-awareness and by providing an environment in which participants feel free to explore and learn in a meaningful way. Participants have also almost universally stated that they have learned more about this topic area through the workshop than they ever have before, and that they would be able to use what they’ve learned to better their work environments.

Q: What are some of the highlights of the retreat, and what is your personal favorite component or aspect of it?

A: One component of the retreat that’s keyed in on quite a bit by participants is how participants learn more about where they fit in, in different communities. My personal favorite component of the retreat is how the conversations that focus on differences sometimes become so uniting that they lead to lasting friendships.

Q: How do you hope the program grows and do you see any future changes planned for the program?

A: I hope the program will begin to attract more program coordinators, and I would love to see a few slots reserved for some students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have spoken to the facilitators about updating the visual aids. More fresh and modern visual examples will be something participants can look forward to.

Q: What might surprise people about the program?

A: I think the most surprising aspect of the program is how quickly the time flies. The topic of conversation and the conversations themselves become so engaging and so thought-provoking that participants get lost in them. Also, doing work that doesn’t feel like work, in that participants learn about what seems like community issues but that are actually awakening self-realizations.

Q: Is there anything else you would like people to know?

A: I would like people to know that any time they sacrifice to attend this retreat will be paid back in spades by the practical and worldview-changing knowledge they will acquire.