“Coming Together for Racial Understanding” is a national curriculum that was designed to equip Extension employees to help their communities engage in civil dialogues around racial issues. UT Extension sent staff to the national training and decided to utilize this new information to focus internally on extension employees, provide professional development that would foster higher levels of cultural competency and build capacity for engaging in dialogue around issues of diversity.
UT and Tennessee State University Extension staff then created a two-day pilot workshop adapted from the national curriculum. The workshop was held in Murfreesboro in December 2019.
This training program was designed to assist Extension employees with developing a recognition and understanding of issues related to racism and bias with the intent of increasing the capacity of Tennessee Extension to tackle difficult issues related to diversity. The content focused on increasing knowledge around systemic racism and oppression, examining how experience and bias shape engagement and learning a common language that can be used throughout the organization to increase the comfort level for cross-cultural dialogue.
Of the pilot participants, 100 percent indicated that they increased their comfort with conversations across racial differences with diverse audiences and 100 percent of participants also indicated that they grew in their understanding of cultural competency. Participants commented that the program was thought provoking, helped to start conversations about cultural competency, invited much needed conversations that allowed shared perspectives and led to personal re-evaluation of self as a result of the training.
UT and TSU Extension staff will use feedback from the pilot workshop to refine and offer a broader training to employees on an ongoing basis starting in 2020.