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Discussion Series

Building Connections and Bridging Differences discussion groups bring people together to learn about and grow their ability to forge deep human connections and creatively bridge differences. In the first concept of these groups four video modules were created for viewing before facilitated conversations about each topic. The videos covered themes from values, to openness, to cultivating courage. Participants learned to apply strategies and to support each other in living their values amidst difficult topics and contrasting viewpoints.

The first series of these discussions was held each Tuesday from April 13 – May 4, 2021. W&M employees and students watched the four video modules, and then participated in facilitated conversations that were intended to connect lived experience to our values.

The next series of training and conversations was held September 13 - October 4, 2021.  The Training Team used an interactive online program called OpenMind, which is designed to equip participants with insights and skills to help better understand themselves and others.  The four-week program included eight lessons (two per week) through the online OpenMind platform and four facilitated in person discussions at the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center.

From feedback and subsequent discussion by the BCBD team members it was concluded that the most effective parts of both sessions of training were the interactive discussions that actually built connections. As a result the training concept will continue to evolve using the best aspects of both the in-house modules and the online OpenMind program.

The third iteration of training is a series of dinners combined with facilitated discussions on belonging, community and connections. This event consists of two dinners, the first on Thursday October 20 and a follow up dinner on Thursday March 23. During the first dinner the conversation at each table will center around experiences at W&M relating to connection and bridging differences and factors contributing or interfering with belonging and connection. Afterwards a list of resources will be provided about upcoming events on campus related to strengthening community. During the next few months, participants will pick and attend at least one the events and then come to the next elegant dinner in March to discuss their reactions and takeaway from the event.

Past Modules 
Module Videos
Module 1: An Introduction

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Module 2: Cultivating Flourishing

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Module 2 continues our discussion of how to deepen our sense of community amidst differences and to actualize our university's mission, vision, and values.  One of the cornerstones of being open and engaged with others in a healthy manner is the degree to which we are healthy ourselves.  When we are overwhelmed or burned out, our capacity to engage our energies outwardly to others is restricted.  This module explores how we can flourish during "chronic too-muchness" and establish a foundation of wellness that positions us well to diverse perspectives around us.

Module 3: Cultivating Openness

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By cultivating a lens of OPENNESS, we can strengthen our actions to align with the university's mission, vision, and values as well as deepen into meaningful interpersonal connections that honor the truth of our shared common humanity. By understanding the brain's natural evolutionary tendency towards bias, we can turn towards thoughts that are inaccurate and adjust instead of reacting and living from beliefs that aren't useful or valuable for the 21st century.   This module explores the importance of curiosity as an element in communication to uphold a lens-free from reacting to the judgment, the brain's natural tendency towards bias, and the necessity of trust to bridge differences on the path to building connections amidst diverse perspectives.

Module 4: Cultivating Courage

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