Atlanta Georgia provided a great backdrop for the
2019 SIETAR USA Conference. Here are a few highlights.
Themes from our Invited speakers
Hamlin Grange opened the conference by painting a picture for us that envisions a world where all peoples are accepted and respected, where prodigal interculturalism thrives; a world that utilizes the skills of bridging, perspective shifting, and collaboration that includes everyone; a world in which we all (including his new granddaughter) can flourish and thrive as we call upon our multiple ethnicities and racial backgrounds to build a rich, vibrant society.
Amir Ahmed pulled the conference learning together in the closing plenary by sharing stories of personal and familiar experiences of prejudice and encouraging us to better integrate a social justice and equity lens into our intercultural work. These arenas of work, he said, should not be seen as separate or competitive, but rather be integrated to support each other for better outcomes. We must not let the importance of power and social inequities go unnoticed and unremarked, and the tools and skills of intercultural work such as perspective shifting and adaptation can then help us bridge the existing divides and achieve both understanding and equity.
Plenary Speakers: Jill Savitt shared stories of her work in genocide and reconciliation around the world as well as her work in Atlanta at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. She stressed the importance of not only acknowledging the atrocities, but also strategies for reaching beyond to achieve healing and future justice and equity,
Joe Lurie, author of Perception and Deception, provided stunning examples of misperceptions across a multitude of cultures that reveal much about what’s behind many cultural clashes in work places, schools, and in the news. Participants left energized, enriched, educated, and entertained from his plenary address.
Tatyana Fertelmeyster and Vicki Flier Hudson shared stories and strategies for how to do the business of intercultural work and be prosperous. They discussed some of the challenges one faces as well as tools and suggestions for overcoming them.
The Master Workshops highlighted skills and strategies for listening to enhance understanding and our own triggers, for how to strategically position your services to calculate and market the value-added you bring, the importance of distinguishing between intent and impact in design and execution of our work, how to utilize games and interactive activities in ways that are safe and instructive - especially the debriefing sessions, exploring the various arenas of intercultural work and how one might position themselves, and strategies for integrating process and content in our bridging work.
The Gala Dinner on Friday night was a wonderful time for people to dress up, relax a bit with some great food and good music for dancing. There were even some great masks there—thanks for the creativity and fun!
In the Closing Session, Sandy Fowler, SIETAR USA President led us in an activity to synthesize the conference experience and create a bumper sticker. The winning slogan is, "Change Behavior Change Minds" submitted by Russanne Bucci.
In summary, it was a great conference thanks to the hard work of a whole team and the generous contributions and sharing of all. You are SIETAR.
Now I pass the torch to Deborah Orlowski and her team for 2020. Hope to see you there.
Karen Lokkesmoe 2019 Conference Chair