Does Welcome Project Mark Victory for Campus Inclusion?

How well do you know your neighbor?

Last summer a group came to the University of New Haven in order to share an in depth look of their experiences as minority figures. Professor Susanne Murphy sees the Welcome Project as an this opportunity for storytelling, allowing those who might not have a voice to share their experiences.

“It ought to be treated as literary material,” said Murphy. “It’s not an argument, it’s not rational, it cuts to the gut. It cuts to the human being. That’s the power of story.”

University staff who are spearheading the project created a short preview trailer that included four different interviews from people looking to share their stories of immigration, gender expression, sexuality, and overcoming language barriers. The trailer closed with a few words from Stuart Sidle, provost for strategic initiatives and program execution at the university.

Those included in the Welcome Project are Murphy and Sidle, as well as chair of the communication department, Tom Garrett, communications professor, Diane Smith, assistant dean of the college of arts and sciences, assistant dean of the college of arts and sciences, Jenna Sheffield, and university provost, Daniel May.

The idea to bring the Welcome Project to the University of New Haven came from staff at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Staff at this university created the project to  “foster curiosity and to forge stronger communities as those communities become increasingly diverse,” according to their website.

On Sept. 17., those involved in producing the project met in Maxcy Hall. They discussed the long and short term goals of the project, and what they needed to do before presenting their work to board of governors this Friday.

Sidle began by talking about a website that was currently in the works “for staff and student leaders” where the interviews from the Welcome Project would be stored.

“Imagine you’re the leader of a student organization,” said Sidle. “You’d have a video on diversity and inclusion with some suggested questions you could ask.”

The conversation and call for action concerning diversity and inclusion on campus came with the faculty’s worry that university students may be encountering people from different backgrounds, but may not be communicating well with one another, and even lacking empathy.

Garrett also took some time during the meeting to talk about the new special topics class that would be offered in the spring semester where students would be able to conduct interviews, as well as shoot and edit video for the Welcome Project.

As the meeting ended, the idea of including the greater West Haven community into the Welcome Project came up. However, the idea was quickly tabled.

But in the meantime, those in charge of the project hope that they will be approached by students and staff that want to share their stories.