How do we build community leading with our humanity in STEM education and research? How do we go beyond token representation of people from diverse backgrounds to radical inclusion and co-creation of our organizations and culture?
When I think about the beginning of a Cultivating Ensembles conference, I think about the people who have chosen to be at the conference and in the room. These are people from very different backgrounds, and all of them are welcome. In fact, without them, there wouldn’t be a conference. They are the builders, presenters and attendees of the conference.
At Cultivating Ensembles, the people and their hearts are the focus. For many attendees, what they care about in their work may be seen as fringe in their home institutions or disciplines. At Cultivating Ensembles participants’ heartfelt work can be center stage in what they present. In my opening talk at the conference, I work to say whatever I can to help people be seen and welcomed. I use humor and share things about myself as an invitation to others to say who they are, and together we create the environment where people can be “out” in their professional lives.
My presentation is also an invitation for developmental interaction among participants. A significant part of creating an ensemble experience, and particularly the Cultivating Ensembles experience, is the invitation and direction to create each moment of the conference together.Even when one person is giving a talk or leading a session, it’s everyone’s responsibility to create that session as one in which everyone can fully participate. We explicitly value and support experiential, collaborative sessions.
“Cultivating Ensembles” is a verb, an activity. The participants attend and engage in the ensemble performance of the conference. They are very different from one another and yet are unified in the activity of building a culture of exploration, development and collaboration. The three-day performance of the CE conference is beautiful. The intro, my welcome, is my attempt to open the door widely and generously to the diverse attendees so that they may have/know what is already true: they belong and the conference is theirs.