By Lydia Hansen
Lori Halverson-Wente’s students are going to have an experience in cross-culture compassion and civic engagement this semester.
As part of her Intercultural Communication class, Halverson-Wente is asking her students to participate in a project to collect and archive the stories of RCTC students, staff, faculty and alumni.
Her students will interview candidates from around the college, gathering information and learning about the life and experiences of participants through open conversation. Their assignment is to record the stories shared with them as a way of preserving the experience and passing it on to others. Their work will be submitted to the Diversity Council, a Rochester organization, which educates people about diversity, with the goal of building an inclusive community.
The stories gathered by Halverson-Wente’s students will be archived as part of a project called Humans of RCTC. A spinoff of organizations like Humans of Rochester and Humans of New York, Humans of RCTC is part of a national movement promoting understanding across cultures. It seeks to enable people with stories of particular cultural or social significance and encourages open-mindedness about diversity and cultural differences.
“The goal of the project will be to have a sense of discovery,” Halverson-Wente explained, “but at the same time, we’ll be part of a civic engagement activity and service learning by producing a public record of who we are.”
Halverson-Wente has big dreams for the Humans of RCTC project. She hopes to get as many as ten or even a dozen people to volunteer to share their stories with her students and would like to eventually see the project promoted on social media and in the local news.
“What I’m wanting to do is create real, local examples of what the students are studying,” she said.
She also intends to continue gathering and archiving stories of diversity and culture with her classes in future semesters. “Next semester the students can look back at what’s already been said. Eventually, my big picture goal is that we’ll be writing a living textbook.”
Her ultimate goal? To create an open-source curriculum for teaching compassionate listening at a college level, with Humans of RCTC stories of the past as a guide and example of what compassionate listening and cultural-openness look like. The purpose of the project is that her students not only learn the theory of intercultural communication, but see the skills applied in a practical and valuable way.
Halverson-Wente summed the project up by saying, “It’s about discovering who we are and our unique identities.”