Diversity Roundtable Gets Theatric in Sixth Year

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Micro-messages were one of the many topics explored at the Sixth Annual Diversity Roundtable on June 10. 

“Storytelling Salons” took center stage during the morning portion of the event at the Ferst Center of the Arts, followed by a luncheon at the Student Center Ballroom. 

Both the Storytelling Salons and luncheon highlighted how lived experiences are important aspects of diversity. 

During the morning session, storytellers explored a variety of diversity topics, including race relations, sexual violence, body image, class, shame, gender expressions, male oppression, and identity dichotomies. Storytellers included Jennifer Edwards, Mark Gindick, and Susan O’Halloran, who are nationally acclaimed speakers and performers, and Tech’s own Sonia Alvarez-Robinson and LaJauna Ellis. 

“I appreciate that Georgia Tech is providing us with an opportunity to discuss diversity and cultural issues,” said Lisa Mitchem, senior associate director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. “These stories — and their potential impact in the workplace — were phenomenal.”

This year, Institute Diversity’s Staff Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement (SDIE) team invited a more expansive audience to the Diversity Roundtable, which included Georgia Tech faculty and staff; community, civic, non-profit, government, industry, and professional organization leaders; and fellow diversity and inclusion practitioners. The theme of the luncheon was “Death by 1,000 Cuts: The Impact of Giants…and Very Small Stings.” 

“Together, the programs were designed to juxtapose the lingering and detrimental impact of ‘giant’ life experiences with the insidious nature of ‘small, yet stinging’ micro-events that we repeatedly endure,” said Cheryl Cofield, director of inclusion and engagement at Institute Diversity and primary choreographer of the event.

Pearl Alexander, executive director of SDIE at Institute Diversity, expanded on this idea.

“Micro-messages are the little things that we do from a behavioral standpoint that diminish the way others feel,” she said. “Conversely, when our intentions are not full of pretense or ego, these messages can be affirming, creating positive, inclusive, and inspiring interactions.”

The SDIE team will continue to use the annual roundtable as one way to facilitate connection, engage employees in growing together, and enable diversity of talent to thrive on campus. 

“As an ongoing initiative designed to help Georgia Tech reach its goal of inclusive excellence, the Diversity Roundtable is an experiential event, which features a series of powerful stories and small group dialogues,” said Archie W. Ervin, vice president of Institute Diversity. “Through a uniquely crafted methodology, participants are able to safely, courageously share experiences that encourage them to notice the impact of behaviors on relationships.”

Many attendees were moved by the sharing of stories that took place.

“I learned about the power of sharing stories and how these community conversations can bind together people who are hearing these stories, thus lowering barriers and enabling us to communicate better with one another,” said Paul Goldbart, dean of the College of Sciences. 

Susan O’Halloran, one of the storytellers, explained why storytelling is so effective. 

“It goes right to the heart,” she said. “You can’t argue with someone else’s experience. Once you understand someone’s experience, you can start to make connections.” 

As a follow-up to the Diversity Roundtable, Institute Diversity’s SDIE team will host a conversation series that further explores micro-messages on July 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Center Crescent Room, and August 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Center Peachtree Room. To register for this conversation series, visit and

— Christine Kapurch, Office of Human Resources, contributed to this story.


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