About Face presentation discusses diversity and self awareness

February 9, 2018

Patricia Steiner, a graduate professor at the Rabb School of Continuing Studies, hosted a presentation in the intercultural lounge titled, “About Face—Solving Issues of Diversity through Self Awareness,” where she discussed diversity and self-awareness with Mark Frazier, a guest speaker from the “On My Genius Campaign” of North Carolina.

The presentation on Feb. 6 and later discussions were made possible by a grant from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The grant paid for the project, which includes a series of talks on and off campus as well as fees associated with Frazier’s travel from North Carolina.

Steiner and Frazier also presented at the Plymouth Public Library on Wednesday, giving the same presentation that was held at Brandeis. According to Steiner, further presentations will take place at off campus locations.

Frazier is an entrepreneur from North Carolina and the Chief Executive Officer of the “Oh My Genius Campaign,” which hosts a variety of mentorship programs for young adults. The campaign’s mission is to “reduce negative life outcomes for all children by building their self awareness, self-confidence, and self-worth,” according to the organization’s website.

Steiner is a graduate professor at the Rabb School of Continuing Education in the Division of Graduate Professional Studies, and specializes in leadership, organization and strategic planning.

The presentation centered around ideas of self-awareness in thought processes, specifically the difference between primary thought, an individual’s first reaction, and secondary thought, which is the further contemplation of an event. They utilized anecdotes ranging from Nelson Mandela to their own personal experiences in order to discuss issues such as racism and sexism in the context of thought processes.

Frazier brought the conversation from theoretical ideas of thought to the world today, saying, “If we’re honest with ourselves in this climate in this day and age I mean there’s a lot of different things where people … remain in that primary and never regulate it with secondary… and we’ve had tragedies as a result,” he continued, referencing police brutality and sexual assault and abuse.

After the initial description of thought processes, Steiner and Frazier opened the floor to the attendees of the presentation, where they took questions about the presentation and discussed personal experiences with stereotyping, primary and secondary thought.

An audience member related primary and secondary thought to her own experience by using an anecdote of shopping at Target with a red shirt on. She stated that she was approached often by patrons who thought she worked there and who, she stated, were only using their primary thought because of the association of the red shirt with Target employees.

In the talk, Frazier described the need for secondary thought, saying, “What we’re bringing awareness to … is the decision … We want to go into the secondary to really be conscious of the decision, of the behavior and our actions.”

The talk was attended by graduate students from Steiner’s class, Organization, Leadership, and Decision Making, as well as undergraduate students.

Further presentations are expected to take place off the Brandeis University campus. For more information on the discussions, contact pattsteiner@brandeis.edu.

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