iLead initiates cultural awareness conversations

Fourteen Baker students recently had the chance to participate in a diversity and inclusion-based retreat known as iLead. This two-day event provided participants with the opportunity to discuss topics including privilege, social constraints and possible diversity and inclusion improvements at Baker.

As one of the 14 participants, freshman Emma Pundt hopes much of the discussion that took place at the retreat will quickly find its way into daily conversation on campus.

“I think this [retreat] will greatly impact Baker’s campus by encouraging students to start the platform for conversation about the diversity and inclusion of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, ages and abilities,” she said.

The idea for the retreat stemmed from a book that Coordinator of Inclusion and Wellness Education Paul Ladipo read called “Beyond Colorblind” by Sarah Shin. The book highlights the efforts made toward “not seeing color” and how creating equality is more than just that.

“After reading it, I thought why not have a retreat or something that would allow us to discuss our identities and help us align with Baker’s mission,” Ladipo said. “I think it was a chance to get to know each other better. Bonds were formed. Respect was given out. It just provided an opportunity to appreciate each other more.”

With their involvement on campus and multiple years of experience in the Baker community, sophomore Chloe Rodenbeek and senior Loic Vaugirard were selected to lead the retreat as student facilitators.

“As long as what was said is actually implemented into our campus, it could make a great difference,” Rodenbeek said.

Participants contributed to multiple discussions, participated in simulation activities and had extra time to have fun and get to know each other.

“I liked how small the group was,” Rodenbeek said. “At first, I was concerned, but it really opened everyone up to good and informative conversations.”

Though only in its first year being available on campus, participants quickly noted the value it brought to their ideas of diversity and inclusion activities on campus. Both Rodenbeek and Pundt expressed hope that the program will continue in the future, providing more students with the opportunity to enter into the discussion.

“I think that this program will surprise people,” Pundt said. “I went in expecting to be told things that I already knew, and that was very ignorant of me because I didn’t realize how my privilege impacted my everyday life.”