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Change begins at the 'CORE'

  • CORE leaders
    CORE leaders  (From left to right) Pooja Gupta, Justin Reid, Adeela Tajdar and Irene Mathieu decided to revive CORE as a monthly faculty and staff-facilitated discussion series.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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A recent study by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley and University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests that cross-group friendships promote cultural understanding and diminish even the worst of prejudices and anxieties. A group at the College of William and Mary has been demonstrating that principle for years.

Conversations on Race and Equality (CORE), was founded in 2005 by then-PhD student Jodi Fisler, Charles Center Director Lisa Grimes, and former NAACP college chapter president Richael Faithful ('07) to fill what they believed was a glaring hole in campus life: a safe place for students to speak their mind about racial issues.

The origins of CORE date back to 2005, when Fisler was inspired by a presentation that had been given by graduate students at the University of Maryland during a professional conference. Fisler wanted to start a similar program at the College and spoke with Grimes and Faithful. The idea was to provide a venue and encourage students of all races to take part and discuss issues that impacted them. Faithful's idea for a slogan, "Change begins at the CORE" became the group's rallying cry.

"The things we don't talk about often fester and turn into resentment," said Fisler.

They met in bi-weekly discussions, hoping to serve as a collective voice for people who cared about, or were directly affected by, racial issues. Though interest was initially high, it was eventually disbanded after three semesters due to low turnout.

CORE experienced a rebirth in the fall of 2008, this time choosing to replace "Race" in CORE's acronym with "Reconciliation." The change was put in place so that the organization could address a variety of diversity-related issues and appeal to a wider audience.  Seniors Pooja Gupta, Iréne Mathieu, Justin Reid and Adeela Tajdar -- all good friends -- met and decided to revive it as a monthly faculty and staff-facilitated discussion series. All three discussions that took place this year occurred inside a dining hall during dinner hours. These discussions have covered such issues as affirmative action, gender and linguistics.

Today's version of CORE is nod to the community group "All Together," which William & Mary's provost, Geoffrey Feiss, currently leads. All Together meets once a month over lunch to have genuine conversations on race and other diversity-related issues.

Though CORE has no further discussions planned for this school year, the William & Mary Image Awards will take place on Sunday, April 26. The event will honor individuals in the community who have helped foster an appreciation for diversity, and those who have strived to build "bridges across lines of difference."

Now that the organization is back on its feet, CORE has attracted nearly 200 students, and though its current organizers are graduating in the spring, they have high hopes that the number will continue to climb.

"All four of us are graduating this year, but we've already had a lot of interest in continuing the group," said Gupta. "The uniqueness of CORE is that it addresses a wide-range of issues that everyone in the student body can relate to-it opens up a dialogue between professors and students that's usually not heard."