The Building Bridges Program
What is the purpose?
The purpose of the Building Bridges Program is to facilitate communication and understanding among Clarion students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and to create a partnership between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs linking the classroom with the campus community. We are committed to improving relations among students, helping them grow personally, and preparing our students for living and working in diverse communities.
How does the program work?
Trained Student Associates, both minority and majority, visit classes to share their personal experiences with prejudice and lead discussions about intergroup relations with their peers. Prior to this visit, professors poll their students for questions. Topics may include interracial dating, minority scholarships, segregation, affirmative action, Black History Month, racial terminology, and the effect of media on racism. The result is a lively, open discussion which produces a different perspective for many students.
Who are the Associates?
Student Associates come form all backgrounds-- Asian, African American, Latino, Native American, and European American. They are recommended for the program by faculty and staff, and receive a service stipend for their participation. Associates receive on-going training over the course of the year in effective listening, nondefensive communication of feelings, creating an open and supportive atmosphere, and handling difficult group members.
What do students say about the program?
The Building Bridges Program is modeled after Shippensburg University’s Building Bridges Program. Student comments about Clarion’s Building Bridges Program include but are not limited to the following:
"This was the first time I was able to discuss stereotypes and other views openly with minority students."
"Building Bridges is rewarding because there is something for everyone to learn in each session."
"Building Bridges should be offered to every student on Clarion’s campus as a free elective."
"When the group discussed affirmative action, many people expressed their opinions, even those who were against it… I think this goes to show that the Building Bridges team showed an open-minded attitude."
"I liked getting the chance to talk to other racial groups specifically on racism."
What can you expect to happen?
Structured opportunities for dialogue about racial and ethnic stereotypes with members of representative minority groups.
Provision of a framework for meaningful interaction between minority and majority students.
Increased understanding of the relationship between valuing diversity and personal and professional success as well as the success of our economy.
Decreased misunderstanding, conflict, suffering, and distress among membes of different groups.
Reduction of feelings of alienation on the part of minority students.
Increased involvement of majority students in the academic and social life of minority students.
Increased involvement of minority students in the academic and social life of majority students.
Reinforcement that all students are responsible for creating a positive and comfortable climate for the diversity of individuals enrolled at Clarion.
Development of critical thinking skills through reflection on personal values and examination of ethical issues.
How do I get involved?
Students: become a Student Associate; request that your professors invite a team of associates into your classes; attend open discussion sessions scheduled outside of classes.
Faculty: invite a team of associates into your classes; poll your students for questions before their visit; encourage your students to continue the dialogue outside of classes.
Where can I get more information?
Rogers J. Laugand III
Minority Student Services
Gemmell Student Complex
Clarion, PA 16214-1232