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We Are 21st-Century Knox


Megan Scott

Editor, Knox Magazine

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If you place a photo of today's Knox students next to photos of students from 1965, 1985, or 2005, you can't help but notice that the makeup of the student body has changed quite a bit. Yet this shouldn't come as a surprise—as the nation changes, so do we. Knox's 21st-century student body is a direct reflection of our 21st-century nation.

How Knox is Bridging the Gap

Knox's student demographics are tied to the demographics of its top enrollment territories. For example, the numbers of Hispanic and Asian students in Knox's primary enrollment states have seen growth in recent years, while the number of white students has been declining during this same time period and will continue to decline for the foreseeable future.

You can see the same trend among Knox's student body over the last 10 years, as the number of Hispanic and Black students at Knox has grown by nearly 20 percent, and the number of white students has declined by seven percent.

Ethnicity charts

According to the Pew Research Center report, The Next America, the Millennial Generation, or 18-33 year olds, is America's most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever.

At Knox, we believe that we learn the most from the people least like us. And today's Knox students live and learn in a diverse community that looks much like the world in which they'll live and work upon graduation. This community is one of the College's most valuable assets.

Difficult Dialogues

In Knox's diverse residential community, nationality, race, class, religion, and gender are not just topics for discussion but lived experiences both in and out of the classroom. Despite best intentions, many members of the Knox community have found that talking across these differences is often messy and sometimes hurtful. So how do we as a community work together to overcome and embrace our differences? Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) is one solution.

Introduced to Knox in 2012, thanks to the generous support of Bob Borzello '58, IGD is a long-standing approach to social justice education pioneered by the University of Michigan. It gathers a group of people on each side of a social identity to listen deeply to each other's lived experiences and to offer their own. One thing that makes IGD unique is its approach to conflict: participants are encouraged to sit with and explore conflict, rather than minimize it.

"IGD gets people past the point where they say ‘we'll agree to disagree,' and, instead, gets them to continue dialogue to deepen their understanding," says Burkhardt Distinguished Professor of History Catherine Denial. Denial co-facilitates Knox's IGD program with Assistant Professor of Sociology Gabrielle Raley.

Three courses in IGD are now offered at Knox. In the 100-level course, students from groups with a history of conflict work together to understand their own social identity, to learn how structural and institutional power works in relation to their identity, and to foster activism and community. The 100-level course is facilitated by student peers, who are closely mentored by faculty. Students are trained by IGD faculty to become peer facilitators in a 200-level course, and facilitators are enrolled in the 300-level course while they are facilitating the 100-level

To date, 45 students have participated in the 100-level course and 16 students have been trained as peer facilitators. "Students who have participated in dialogues have consistently said the experience was transformational and one of the most important classes they took at Knox," says Raley.

Faculty and staff have also participated actively in the program. Staff in Athletics and Admission participated in an IGD training on diversity last year, and additional opportunities are planned for faculty and staff in the coming year.

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