IS Listening Project
In 2011, Information Services (IS) embarked on an unexpected journey. An impromptu conversation between Ed Mahon, CIO and vice president of the Division of Information Services and Dr. Alfreda Brown, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) resulted in a group of IS staff members participating in the first ever IS Listening Project.
The Listening Project is an initiative where employees are paired together based on differences, which may include departmental affiliation, job position, race, ethnicity, and gender. The goal of the project is to build new relationships between employees who generally do not interact with one another, to better understand diversity and inclusion, and to provide opportunities for building trust. This is the final year of the official involvement of IS in this program.
Listening Project partners meet twice a month, where they ask each other prepared questions designed to foster awareness and sensitivity of differences.
"These questions lead to further conversations, which help build trust and improve understanding of diversity and inclusion from a variety of perspectives,” explains Dana Lawless-Andric, associate vice president for DEI. These new relationships foster community within the Division of Information Services and may aid to strengthen the success of diversity at Kent State as a whole.
Throughout the year, four “cluster sessions” are held where all partners gather as a group to discuss their thoughts and gain insight from one another. These sessions are led by volunteer coaches who have previously participated in the project. Coaches serve as guides, share personal experiences, and assist with issues that might occur. Over the course of the Listening Project, 20 IS employees have returned to coach new groups of participants.
“The value of this program is inherent in its name: Listening. Too often we go through life hearing only the voices that reflect our own experience,” suggests Ian Davison, IT user support analyst and 2015 coach. “If we allow ourselves to be open to new ideas, new perspectives, then our idea of ‘what is’ broadens to ‘what could be.’ It is my sincere hope that everyone who goes through this program walks away with this expanded perspective.”
While the IS Listening Project comes to a close, the division’s involvement may continue on. There have been conversations around expanding the initiative to additional departments, divisions, or potentially the entire university. Many IS staff members have expressed interest in teaming up with other staff and faculty as they begin a new journey.