The inaugural Intercultural Engagement Conference at Dartmouth on Oct. 13 and 14 has stories to tell. Lots of them.
“Every culture has a story. Every community has a story. Every person has a story,” says La-Tarri Canty, associate dean for community life and inclusivity.
“The conference is focused on storytelling as a way to encounter and share the diverse experiences we all bring to the Dartmouth community,” says Canty, who oversees the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the Native American Program, and the William Jewett Tucker Center for Spiritual and Ethical Life.
The conference kicks off Friday, Oct. 13, with a conversation led by faith leaders Pastor Kaji Douša, senior pastor for the Park Avenue Christian Church, and Rabbi Joshua Stanton, spiritual leader of East End Temple, both in New York City, about the power of cultural and community storytelling as a way to cultivate community and curiosity. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at Collis Common Ground. Conference-goers will also be invited to attend a Shabbat candle-lighting service at sundown Friday, followed by Shabbat dinner hosted by two student Jewish organizations.
Saturday, the 14th, will feature a slate of storytelling events from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kemeny Hall, including a workshop by podcaster Apoorva Dixit ’17, whose podcast series about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, They Knew Which Way to Run, received international acclaim. Dixit will share her insight on bringing diverse personal stories to a wide audience through podcasting.
Other workshops include a human library, organized by the Tucker Center, where students, faculty, and staff will volunteer to be “library books,” offering personal stories over 10 minute “check out” times; sessions on creating graphic novels and comics; hands-on classes on building and playing musical instruments, and more.
Registration for the event, which is open to all students, is available at dartgo.org/iecregistration.
“The goal is not only to tell and hear each other’s stories, but to create connections and increase curiosity,” says Jazmine Gittens-Roberts, OPAL program coordinator and co-chair of the conference organizing committee. “Just allowing yourself to share space with folks to intentionally just listen—to understand rather than listen to respond—is a powerful way to build an inclusive community.”
In her inaugural address on Sept. 22, President Sian Leah Beilock spoke about the power of diverse life experiences and personal stories in strengthening community. The president said she and senior leadership are committed to centering viewpoints and voices at Dartmouth that aren’t always heard, and to let that diversity of thought and lived experience shine through. Among the initiatives to do this is a partnership with StoryCorps’ One Small Step initiative, which invites strangers with widely opposing views to come together to engage in respectful conversation, even in the presence of strong political disagreement.
Elizabeth Anders Thompson, multifaith adviser at the William Jewett Tucker Center and co-chair of the organizing committee for the Intercultural Engagement Conference, says, “Storytelling has the power to address discomfort. It has the ability to eliminate hate, to humanize others, and gives people the opportunity to be fully seen and fully heard.”
Canty says part of her mission as associate dean for community life and inclusivity is to help implement Dartmouth’s Toward Equity plan, a three-year strategic plan launched last November.
“Our strategic plan focuses on how we serve all students with regard to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work,” Canty says. “Historically, most colleges have focused on minoritized populations, but I am of the belief that if we’re going to shift the culture, then our work needs to focus on all students.”
“That’s why we created this storytelling conference, because everyone has a story, and hopefully everyone can see themselves in the work.”
In addition to co-chairs Gittens-Roberts and Anders Thompson, the event planning committee included:
- Senior Assistant Dean Rachele Hall, director of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership
- Dayrene Pittelli, administrative assistant in the Office of Community Life and Inclusivity
- Jerome Wilcox, director of inclusive excellence in Geisel School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Community, and Excellence
- Kushagra Rawat, Thayer ’24
- Ivy Mayende ’25.