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Building Inclusive Communities at Michigan State University

Russ White
Jennifer Orlando, Paulette Granberry Russell

“There’s a need for us to acknowledge and talk more about our differences,” Paulette Granberry Russell, senior advisor to the president for diversity and director of MSU’s Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, tells Jennifer Orlando on MSU Today.

“How do we, across differences, engage with each other effectively? We’re seeking ways to bridge our differences and ways we can build on the strength of our differences as opposed to seeing them as things that divide us.

“Not everyone is comfortable, though, having those kinds of conversations. So through our office and this initiative, our goal is to create a comfort with the uncomfortable conversations that we need to continue to have.”

Granberry Russell invites anyone to visit the Inclusion website.

“This goal of creating a more inclusive environment wherever we are is essential. And I think the vast majority of us as individuals or communities believe that our differences truly are our strengths. They don’t have to divide us.

“Spartans Will build bridges across differences. Spartans Will see our differences as assets. Through Spartans Will, we recognize that even though we are different we are together, that we are part of one community.

“And even though fundamentally I may disagree with you on some things, I can still have a relationship with you. And a respectful one and a civil one. That is certainly at the heart of what we hope to do with this initiative.”

Granberry Russell adds that people often conflate or confuse diversity and inclusion. One of her office’s goals is to help make that distinction.

“Diversity is a fact. It is. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to me necessarily feeling that how I identify or the ways in which I exist in the world is always valued and respected.”

A Building Inclusive Communities initiative goal is to help MSU become a more inclusive space.

“We’re striving to be a more open community that recognizes that there are going to be tense times. Conflict is a natural state of being, but it doesn’t mean we have to do harm.

“So our goal is to do more to create peoples’ sensibility and understanding around the diversity that’s here. It is essential that we treat each other with respect.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.

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