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After doubling in size last year, the Diversity Peer Educators expanded on-campus programming and outreach this semester with increased events and collaborations with other student groups.
The Diversity Peer Educators—a group of trained student facilitators that conduct outreach for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion—grew in size from ten to 20 staff members in the program’s second year.
Now in its third year, the group hosted a series of on-campus dialogues and started developing trainings for Peer Advising Fellows.
Ileana Casellas-Katz, an administrative fellow at the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, said she worked with the expanded Diversity Peer Educators to curate events that are more accessible to students. Casellas-Katz said the Diversity Peer Educators previously hosted a multi-week “set of sustained dialogue” events on a specific topic. This year, she added, the group changed their model to host six different events, each on a different topic.
“We recognized that we wanted to be able to hit on more subjects, more topics within the course of the semester,” Casellas-Katz said.
This semester’s dialogues have focused on free speech, mental health, and identity and intimacy at the College, often in collaboration with other on-campus groups such as Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach, Harvard Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators, and the Student Mental Health Liaisons.
Michelle Liang ’19, a Diversity Peer Educator who facilitated an Oct. 30 dialogue titled “Free Speech? Free Society?,” said that the more “intimate” setting of the events made for more meaningful discussion.
“There’s debate rooms, there’s political spaces, but there’s not really a dialogue space where people can come from the ‘I perspective,’ where people can come from telling a personal experience they’ve had,” Liang said.
The Diversity Peer Educators have further expanded their work by collaborating with the Peer Advising Fellows program, which looks to help freshmen students navigate Harvard, according to Brooks Lambert-Sluder, who directs the PAF program.
According to Lambert-Sluder, the Diversity Peer Educators attended monthly Yard meetings for the PAFs last month to discuss issues related to the first-year experience and begin planning optional training sessions for PAFs in the spring. Liang describe the meeting as an “info session” about the Diversity Peer Educators.
“I know that one of the things that came out of the Yard meetings was that it’s often challenging to advise across difference and to be a mentor to people whose experiences and backgrounds and identities may not be the same as yours,” Lambert-Sluder said. “So I hope that we can work with the DPEs and others to work on programming and training that will give PAFs more ability.”
Liang said that, while the Diversity Peer Educators have not finalized their plans for next semester’s PAF trainings, some PAFs have weighed in on suggestions to create an effective training program.
Lambert-Sluder said it is likely the Diversity Peer Educators will hold two training sessions for the PAFs in the spring.
—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.
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