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Q & A with speaker Cheryl Forster, Psy.D.

December 11, 2015

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Cheryl Forster, Psy.D., is going to be hosting a workshop entitled “Talking About Race and Racism: A Developmental and Integrative Approach.” This workshop will be taking place in the South Chapel on January 30 and registration is currently open here.

What was it that led you to helping with issues about talking about race?

As a person of color, issues of race and racism have been important to me throughout my life. Within the field of psychology, I have been able to focus on issues of diversity, social justice, and multicultural counseling. Since 2008, I have also pursued advanced work in intercultural communication, which has been invaluable to me in this very personal and professional journey.

Have you done workshops like the one you’re giving at Lewis & Clark? If so, what were the biggest takeaways from those?

I have been doing diversity trainings for about 10 years now, but I have never done this exact workshop. The workshop at Lewis & Clark will be a culmination of many years of work.

My biggest takeaways from the diversity and intercultural trainings I do in general though is that the core of this work is developmental, and not allowing for that aspect makes the conversation more difficult. In my early years of being a trainer, I was more focused on making sure people learned the concepts and increased their self-awareness in the standard way, which led to mistakes. These mistakes and my intercultural communication training helped me take a different approach in my work, and I have noticed a significant difference in the impact on participants as a result of this shift.

What should participants be prepared for in this workshop?

My workshop has been designed to be complimentary to other more traditional workshops that focus on race and racism. No one-day workshop can be all things to such a large and complex issue. The workshop will mostly consist of didactic material and some experiential exercises. It will be interactive, but there will not be time allotted for difficult dialogues–I think that is important for participants to know. Throughout the workshop, current event issues will be touched on, but we will not focus on them in a concentrated way. My hope though is that participants will learn things that will help them have those conversations more comfortably after the workshop. I want to increase people’s comfort with these conversations so we can move forward, increase connection, and build unity.

What sets this workshop apart from other workshops about race?

I wanted to do this workshop because I feel like I continually watch the conversation about race get stuck in some common ways among people who are very well-intentioned and consciously do not want to be racist or viewed as racist. However, there are aspects of how they think about difference that keeps them in a loop; that loop usually does not include overt racism, but often leads to avoidance or minimization of these issues.

Another reason I wanted to do this workshop is because I feel like the developmental aspect of this work has sometimes been overlooked by more traditional social justice approaches. The social justice perspective and message is so very important. Although, how that message is delivered sometimes turns people off or scares people if they are not ready to hear it. My hope is that my workshop’s more developmental approach will speak to a wider audience about a challenging issue, while offering a more concrete understanding of what is happening when we get stuck or may be observing when others are engaged in these crucial conversations.

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