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Real Talk: MDC

Real Talk: MDC aims to provide MDC students, particularly minority and/or non-traditional students, a safe space to discuss social issues.

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The purpose of Real Talk: MDC is to provide MDC students, particularly minority and/or non-traditional students, a safe space to discuss social issues including issues that they experience in higher education. Effective higher education not only provides theory and pedagogy, but should also provide practical opportunities for students to be engaged and exposed to social issues. This initiative can be implemented in community colleges across the nation who serve a diverse student population or are interested in diversifying their current student population.

Our student body is composed of a majority minority population whom face a breadth of social issues and/or personal issues. Many of our students are also first time in college or first generation college students whom often don’t have the “college knowledge” necessary to navigate higher education. Often, non-traditional students feel that they are not part of the conversation and that their voices and opinions are not worthy. Miami Dade College feels driven to provide all students with the opportunity to promote integration and not tolerance. It is at the core of our mission to provide all students with meaningful opportunities.

The Real Talk: MDC sessions would provide students a safe space to not only discuss the issues they experience, but to also seek practical solutions and coping mechanisms. The majority of sessions would be led by student leaders so that students could find comfort in sharing and engage each other. These sessions would provide students the opportunity to dismantle and challenge stereotypes and stigmas that they have experienced and the opportunity to encounter new perspectives. When students become a part of the conversation they become part of the movement.

Real Talk: MDC Series (Sample Topics)

  • My first-time in college experience
  • First-generation Students: Who can guide us?
  • LQBTQ Awareness: How to deal with bullying or lack of empathy at my institution?
  • Students with disabilities: How to ensure that your needs are meet
  • Yes, I Can: Empowering students to successful college completion

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This initiative is designed for students that are sometimes overlooked but want to be a part of the dialogue regarding the issues that prevent students from accessing higher education. It is crucial that students are at the core of conversations regarding social issues especially those that prevent students from succeeding in higher education. Increasingly, higher education is beginning to diversify and it is important that colleges not only welcome all students, but also empower these learners.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

For our initiative to be replicated at other institutions it would be helpful for the OpenIDEO community to create a database to collect issues that students are experiencing in other schools in the network and/or in the nation. With this information we can intentionally create dialogue and solutions to develop best practices to help students be successful in higher education and as a result in the workforce.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus will introduce its first Real Talk: MDC series which will be led by one of our student leaders, a former homeless student. The purpose of this conversation will be to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes about students experiencing homelessness and to show that there is a path to success. we would also like to extend these conversations into the community. Our student leader will also co-lead a lecture in a local homeless shelter with an administrator.

Tell us about your work experience:

I proudly serve as the Dean of Students at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, a community college that serves the greater Miami community. Many of our students tend to be first time in college students and/or are non-traditional students.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Jaime,

Thank you for sharing Real Talk MDC. It is great that so many ideas are coming from Miami Dade College.

It might be worth you looking at Open Call as there are some similarities between both of your ideas. The Human Library  (an existing project) and Utilizing diversity and global perspectives to reimagine higher education also have some similarities.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Unfortunately, I am not based in the US so for the 'issues that students are experiencing in other schools in the network and/or in the nation' I will tag some people that might be able to help - Chris Eberhardt Ellen Feig Leah Edwards Alex Williams Terry Hosler Sarah Saxton-Frump - hopefully someone will be able to respond.
Andrea Zelenak  Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with your post? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Ellen Feig

I sent you a reply above.

Photo of Leah Edwards

I recently asked colleagues for help finding studies that prove that programs that promote inclusion help with persistence, completion and happiness among foreign, minority, first-generation and/or any underrepresented group in colleges. I haven't heard back yet, so I put that question out to this community too.

Personally, I believe inclusion programs are critical, even without research. And I strongly believe that "Real Talk" sessions would be helpful to many students.

I would experiment with specific topics, such as being on campus with a disability, versus more general discussions that are clearly for anyone who is questioning whether they belong. Many people don't feel their personal issues are "bad enough" to get help, when they look around and see people who are worse off.

You can both promote open conversations about "how to succeed at college" while coaching the speakers or facilitators how to touch on the various issues you know are creating challenges for some students.

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Thanks Kate!

Do you have RA's or residential advisors? I went to a university that had MA's which we multicultural advisors. My sister was one and I was suggested to be one. It's usually someone of a minority or invested in diversity, they run programs at dorms in exchange for free room and board. The program I remember my sister doing the most was "Hot chocolate hot topics" so it was a comfortable environment (with pillows and couches and hot choclate, which got people to come) and they discussed a lot of different things culturally.

In addition, we had a diversity program that provided 50% scholarship in exchange for producing positive things on campus like programs and events based around things like that. I don't know the structure that much but I could find it out.

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Let me know if you have any other questions! Hopefully that helped!

Photo of Sarah Saxton-Frump

Similarly, Jaime, if we can help get you connected, let us know!

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