Special Note: All Cohort members are available for hire to work on specific facilitation and training projects. Some Cohort members will refrain from participating on any projects where a conflict of interest arises.
Below are answers from each cohort member on the question:
“Who are we and why did we respond to the invitation?”
I was a “military brat” growing up. I spent most of my childhood traveling and living outside the United States in various countries with different languages, cultures, religions, history and perspectives. My father’s longest deployments were in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Okinawa and Crete. These experiences helped create a personal level of comfort with diverse people and an ability to accept folks as they are and appreciate multiple viewpoints. Living and working in Portland, Oregon is wonderful but it is not a diverse city. As a husband and father in a bi-racial family, it is my opinion that many people here have not fully embraced multi-ethnic, multi-cultural diversity. This under representation is something I and my fellow cohort members can bring to the table in the area of facilitation work
I was attracted to the group after a brief discussion with Barbara McKay on the phone. I was looking at the internet for an opportunity to learn more about facilitation and stumbled on her website. I met with her after that brief phone call and she explained the objective of the group; it was so new and different from anything I have been exposed to. I am an immigrant who has lived and worked in the U.S. for several years, I even had some exposure to facilitation and dialogue training in the past. This was the first time that I heard a focus on pulling together people from different cultures to learn how to facilitate. It resonated with me and I agreed to check it out because this experience is rarely given to people of color.
I was intrigued. In all my years of nonprofit work, I have always felt that there was so much to learn from the community that I was working with, yet somehow I did not know how to fully draw out the wisdom. I grew up under the shadow of “Martial Law” and dictatorship, so I have this mentality that a group needs to be “controlled” and “coerced”. I longed for specific tools and approaches that I could use, that would be opposite of this mentality. In the spring of 2008, I enrolled in a “Creating Collaborative Communities” class at PSU. Barb was a guest speaker. She led us through a facilitation exercise. The afternoon was an eye-opener. Since that time, I have looked for ways to get to know Barb and her profession as a facilitator. What an amazing journey it’s been – and it’s only the beginning!
As a young, multiethnic child growing up in Japan, Hawaii, Singapore and Hong Kong, I became acutely aware of the complexities of difference. I wanted deeply to eradicate institutional oppressions, and build peaceful societies where each person and group is included and valued. Professionally, I almost always took on teaching and student services jobs that had some component of intercultural understanding. Then one day, I started facilitating online dialogues between college students from all over the world about conflicts between “predominantly Muslim societies” and “Western societies”. I know this sounds cliched, but something “clicked” that day. “This” – this being facilitating intergroup dialogues – I thought to myself, “is what I want to do with my life.” Shortly thereafter, I met Barb. I had loads of “theory” in my head about institutional oppressions until then, but facilitation gave me the “action” piece that I was missing and needing. It gave me the language to think about, feel, experience and implement positive social change. Barbara and our cohort has been my “family”, supporting me through every aspect of my professional and personal experiences!
My junior year in high school I realized my calling in life: to make a meaningful impact in the world no matter what I chose to do professionally. When I first met Barb, I was taken back by her brilliance in the field of facilitation. The first time I took one of her classes, I realized that facilitation would be an invaluable tool to help implement my dream of making a meaningful impact on the world – one conflict at a time. After studying international conflict resolution for two years as part of my graduate program, things became even clearer. While my studies in conflict resolution equipped me with the skills and knowledge to analyze conflicts, I discovered that facilitation would be the key to implementation – in other words, what moves the process from analysis to action. As a student of facilitation and conflict resolution, I realize there is still much more to learn and gain as I continue to move forward with pursuing my dream. It is undoubtedly an added bonus to have a seasoned professional and phenomenal person like Barb to help guide the journey.
I was drawn to facilitation because it gives people a safe environment to have their voice heard. I feel the more thoughts, ideas, and feelings from people of all different walks of life, the richer the experience and outcome. I was honored to have the opportunity to join this group to learn, co-facilitate, and collaborate with the other cohort members. The way we support each other, the camaraderie, and the friendship has been an added bonus. The fact that we are a diverse group has made this experience even more valuable to me.
I had prior experience facilitating only a single process and I was introduced to the broader world of facilitation skills when I contacted and met Barbara. I joined the group at her invitation and did not realize that it was a diversity group at first. However, I am very interested in diversity and the richness of life experience that comes with it so I was most pleased when I realized the true nature of the group.
Stephanie Gonzalez is well known for her ability to encourage, organize, and lead diverse groups of people toward a common goal. Her volunteer experience with over twenty organizations has uniquely prepared her to engage people who vary in age, profession, cultural backgrounds, as well as mental and physical ability. She has coached, trained, and advised numerous athletes, students, business professionals, and non-profit organizations.