Peer-to-peer program seeks to expand diversity initative

Last semester the Inclusion Alliance: A Peer to Peer Leadership Program’s initial mission was to enhance the diversity lesson in the freshman University Life course, but now the initiative’s aim has expanded to include other programs.

The program, which includes 48 students and eight administrators, will expand on the topics discussed in the campus-wide discussion series named Let’s Talk. The group will develop leadership training for high school students in the Upward Bound program and present at the Petersheim Academic Expo, according to freshman studies mentor Lauren Mitchell.

“We will also be collaborating with the Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) to strengthen the impact that both organizations have on the University,” Mitchell wrote in an email. “Next year we plan to go back into University Life and to bring our programming to student-athletes and the interdisciplinary Buccino leadership program.”

Luke Tyler/Staff Photographer

The group’s planning committee began meeting about diversity lessons last spring. According to Mitchell, the group worked with the Ceceilyn Miller Institute, a leadership and diversity training organization. At Camp Bernie in Port Murray, N.J., representatives from the institute trained the student facilitators for the diversity lesson during a two-day off-campus workshop. Mitchell said the lesson was developed by her and two other Freshman Studies mentors, Chiroshri Bhattacharjee and Gerald Cameron.

According to Mitchell, the initiative was prompted by a proactive student after last January’s Real talk on Race, who recommended to Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, vice president of Student Services, that upperclassmen ought to engage with first-year students in University Life about race and diversity.

“Dr. Gottlieb then put the planning committee together so that we could bring this student’s idea to fruition,” Mitchell said. “Since its inception, several departments and offices have come to support the initiative to make it a reality, including several offices within the Division of Student Services, the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute and the office of the Provost. Without the generosity and support of the latter two offices, in particular, the success of this program would have been impossible.”

Sophomore finance major Vansh Arora received an email last year regarding participation in the program, and he decided to join. Arora said this semester the members are attending more University Life classes.

“One thing we aim to convey to the students is that diversity is important,” Arora said. “As throughout life, we will be engaging with several people from several different backgrounds.”

Marai Domio, a senior history major, applied for the opportunity in the spring of 2018. She received an email inquiring about students who were interested in leading discussions on race and diversity.

“I, like many of black students, refuse to sit and watch the voices of minority students continue to be ignored by the administration and the collective student body that is privileged with the option to ignore the blatant injustice on this campus and continue on like everything is perfect,” Domio said.

Domio attended the training trip, which taught her how to facilitate difficult and uncomfortable conversations in a respectful way,” said Domio.

“We, the peer leaders and the faculty advising us, are already brainstorming more events for this semester and ways to reach the campus as a whole including the administration, faculty, and professors.”

Thomas Schwartz can be reached at

Author: Thomas Schwartz

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