On November 18, the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning collaborated with the Doyle Engaging Difference Program to host a conversation entitled “Well-being, Diversity, and the University Community” with Dr. Daniel R. Porterfield (’83), President of Franklin & Marshall College. Moderated by Joan B. Riley, Engelhard Senior Scholar and Associate Professor of Human Science at Georgetown, the conversation focused on what it means to function as a community of higher education that honors both the individual and collective histories and identities of its students.
Dr. Porterfield, who has been instrumental in increasing the number of first-generation college students at Franklin & Marshall, stressed the need for universities to find, educate, and launch more socio-economically diverse talent while also attending to what this change in the diversity of a community brings to the culture of the institution. “How can we authentically live our identity in a changing world?” he asked, encouraging conversations that engage issues of diversity, identity, and a sense of belonging. “Dialogue is action; listening is action,” he continued.
Dr. Porterfield also spoke about the strategies he uses to shift existing culture and promote well-being within university contexts. He urged students in the audience to see Georgetown as their own to shape and influence, and to see their campus as a network of relationships that grow and evolve around the aims and aspirations of the community. It is imperative, he said, for students to ask, What’s happening around me? How can I be sensitive to the environment around me? What are we called to do? What is the purpose of this environment? What animates people’s best work? It is equally important, he argued, for the university to provide and share resources to students so that they can become leaders, tackle issues of sexual assault and discrimination, and continue dialogues that draw the community closer to one another. He encouraged all to be non-defensive, open, and ready to grow and learn.
The audience for the event comprised Georgetown students and alumni, Engelhard and Doyle Faculty Fellows, Engelhard Health Professional Fellows, student affairs partners, and administrators. This event falls within Engelhard Conversations on Educating the Whole Person, a discussion series intended to provide the Georgetown community opportunities to engage on well-being topics across the university and from many perspectives.
CNDLS thanks Dr. Porterfield for his insightful contribution to our campus’ conversation about the intersection of diversity and well-being. Stay tuned for news about future conversations to take place in the spring semester.