SPOTLIGHT: Dialogue, Diversity, and Community in Rhode Island

 

ba065ec4c78ade1a2ec8fdc5b8bc730fDr. Anthony Galvez of Rhode Island College’s Dialogue on Diversity Committee on engaging the campus in a conversation about global understanding…

In the fall of 2011, Anthony Galvez, a communications professor at Rhode Island College (RIC), first contacted us to discuss the possibility of hosting Global Lens in Providence. A year later, RIC had struck a partnership with the Providence Public Library to co-present the 2012 series for their community, premiering THE FINGER and THE PRIZE in Rhode Island in September. The series was a hit, and the screenings sparked spirited audience discussions, sometimes continuing onto the streets of downtown Providence! The College and the Library are partnering again this year to showcase Global Lens 2013, and we recently caught up with Dr. Galvez and Antoinette Gomes (Director of RIC’s Unity Center) to chat about the impact of our films on the community.

GFI: This is Rhode Island College’s second year hosting Global Lens, after first being introduced to your community as part of Diversity Week last fall. When you first got in touch with us, you mentioned that, as a member of RIC’s Dialogue on Diversity committee, you were looking to find new, inventive ways to expose your campus communities to diverse cultures and ideas. Can you tell us a little more about Diversity Week, the Dialogue on Diversity’s mission, and how Global Lens helps support its goals?

Anthony Galvez: Let me start by talking about the Dialogue on Diversity (DOD) committee. The committee was established long before I arrived at Rhode Island College as a place for the campus community to discuss and implement strategies for creating an environment of inclusion and understanding for faculty, staff, and students. Rhode Island College recognizes that diversity is a core strength in any organization. Essentially, diversity of ideas and beliefs allows us to engage our students in such a way that they leave us with an expanded worldview and thus are better prepared for the new global age that we live in.

The DOD promotes the idea of diversity through lectures and events. One of the events that we support is Diversity Week. Diversity Week is a week long celebration hosted by the campus Unity Center. During Diversity Week the Unity Center schedules lectures, panel discussions, symbolic events, and films. The entire campus community is invited to participate by proposing an event or attending an event. We typically will see participation from student organizations, academic departments, and non-RIC organizations interested in supporting our mission. We were thrilled to include Global Lens as part of Diversity Week last year and anticipate that Global Lens films will play a key role in future Diversity Week programming.

Overall, Global Lens is exactly what our DOD is all about. The films allow us to engage the campus community in a conversation about not only our differences but how similar we are as well. It is a thrill to talk to students after they have seen the films and find how they had never thought of people from Iran, Argentina, or Rwanda struggling with the same core human issues that they struggle with daily. They begin to understand that borders are arbitrary and that all humanity shares the same desire for love, acceptance, understanding, and equality.

GFI: That’s excellent to hear. Is there a specific region of the world that you think students could benefit from learning more about?

Anthony Galvez:  I would love for the students to see more films from Africa. After seeing GREY MATTER last year, it occurred to me that we rarely see films from Africa directed by Africans.

ric_image1GFI:  While we’re talking about global citizenship, this past November the U.S. Department of Education issued its first-ever international strategy, emphasizing the need for American students to become more engaged in world affairs. In your experience, what role do you think film can play in building empathy to other nations? How can teachers and educators better incorporate films into their lesson plans?

Anthony Galvez: The United States has long been criticized for engaging in cultural imperialism. Because our media industry exports so many products abroad (film, television, music, etc.). many of our beliefs and ideas become influential abroad. At the same time, we have been reluctant to import media. With the exception of films from Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong, we rarely get a glimpse of the rest of the world. Global Lens, in my opinion, is critically important because it allows us a chance to engage with other cultures. Students who consume media from abroad gain a better respect for people of all nationalities. As the students gain more respect for others, they will be more likely empathize with their global brothers and sisters. I sincerely feel that by educating students that all people are created equal, we will see a future generation that is less likely to commit to global conflict and will be more willing to embrace diversity instead of fearing it.

GFI: That’s a very interesting connection between consuming media and gaining a greater respect. Why do you suppose that is? Because students are able to actually see other cultures in films? Because today’s students connect more closely with audiovisual language? Both?

Anthony Galvez:  I think film is able to tell the story of a culture more thoroughly than a textbook. When our students learn of other cultures in High School, they learn about key events and dates. When they experience the culture through film they experience the story of one person or a small group of people. Any story told from the first person perspective will carry with it great weight and convey strong emotions that audiences can feel connected to

GFI: You’ve said before that Rhode Island is a big “film mecca,” and that you were surprised that there weren’t any previous Global Lens partners in your state before RIC and your partnership with the Providence Public Library. How did the community receive last year’s series?

Anthony Galvez:  Rhode Island is truly a state that embraces art, and everything from live theater, music, museums, and film is celebrated by our citizens. Providence is home to Brown University, Rhode Island College, and the Rhode Island School of Design, all with national reputations in the arts. When I moved here 3 years ago, I had assumed that given the diverse cultural programming available, someone would be hosting the Global Lens films. I had been exposed to Global Lens as a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. I was very surprised to find that no one was hosting the series in Rhode Island. I immediately brought the idea to the DOD and after a little research we decided that a partnership with the Providence Public Library would be a great fit. Last year’s launch of the series was well received. Though we are not yet competing with the local cineplex, we are building a devoted following in the community. What I found early on was that the quality of the series is so strong that through word of mouth the series is building a reputation in the state. I’m constantly being told that these films are some of the best works in cinema today. So, we are doubling our advertising efforts this year and hope to see exponential growth.

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Anthony Galvez, Dialogue on Diversity, Rhode Island College

GFI:  That’s exactly the kind of local movement we are striving to build. Is there a Global Lens film in particular that has sparked a lot of conversation with your students?

Anthony Galvez:  Two films from 2012 really excited the students. The first was FAT, BALD, SHORT MAN, which challenged the students to think about bullying as being more than a school yard phenomenon, and it didn’t hurt that the students loved the style of animation used by the director. The second film was GREY MATTER. The protagonist in GREY MATTER was young and the students seemed to identify with his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress. Overall, the students said they enjoyed all of the films and really appreciated the ones that challenged them to think critically about social issues.

GFI:  The films are presented on campus via the Unity Center, which is a pretty unique program at your college, offering diversity workshops and other resources. How has the Center influenced and impacted students at RIC?

unity_centerAntoinette Gomes:  The Unity Center was established in 1994 as a space dedicated to elevating the understanding about and between racially and culturally diverse social groups. As the understanding of diversity has expanded, the mission of the center has become increasingly inclusive. Its mission is to promote the opportunity for excellence to all students through collaborations with students, faculty, staff and the community-at-large. Each semester, hundreds of students utilize the lounge for social interactions and participate in the many programs coordinated through the center. The center’s conference and resource rooms are popular for student organization meetings and study groups. Currently, the Unity Center is working in tandem with the Learning for Life grant project to deliver support services to underrepresented student groups facing obstacles that may threaten the completion of college.

We’re so pleased that Global Lens has allowed missions of GFI, the Dialogue on Diversity, and the Unity Center to intersect, and we look forward to many more years of working together. Many thanks to Anthony and Antoinette for taking the time to speak with us, and for all their hard work bringing these films to Providence. Rhode Island College premieres its Global Lens 2013 program on March 5th, beginning with Mohamed Diab’s CAIRO 678, which will then be reprised at the Providence Public Library on March 7th. Visit the calendar to check the full screening schedule!

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