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OSU Extension Makes Strides with Coming Together for Racial Understanding Dialogues

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Coming Together for Racial Understanding logo


Together with Langston University and the College of Muscogee Nation, Oklahoma State University has joined forces to bring people together and engage in connection, learning and planning regarding racial understanding.


Mike Stout, OSU Extension family and consumer sciences specialist, said the Oklahoma program is based on the national dialogue program Coming Together for Racial Understanding.


“Several educators from OSU, Langston and the College of Muscogee Nation have been trained as trainers, and we’ve done two facilitator trainings to engage Extension faculty across Oklahoma’s 1862, 1890 and 1994 land-grants in both the dialogue program itself and the facilitation training,” Stout said. “The purpose of the programs is to provide a space and process through which members of diverse communities can work through issues. We encourage sharing experiences, thoughts and opinions in order to learn more about issues.”


In addition, this type of setting shows how different factors can influence understanding. Once participants share their experience, facilitators and participants can step back and look at the data and learn more about what’s happening in communities across the state.


OSU Extension is a trusted organization across the state and is structured in a way to help organize and facilitate such challenging conversations concerning race, gender, class differences and more.


“We want to give people long-term goals to work toward, but also provide a framework on what steps can be taken collaboratively in order to move the needle to make progress on specific issues,” he said. “The plan is for a group of individuals to engage in dialogue and action planning to come up with their top one or two priorities. After they develop a plan, the broader community is invited to attend a discussion and these dialogue groups become action teams.”


Many communities around the state have gaps in programming. Stout said OSU Extension is looking to fortify those gaps and develop programming to meet the needs of state residents.


“The goal is to build up enough capacity to offer these dialogues more broadly, and to expand them to potentially include topics such as workforce development; agriculture, family and consumer sciences and STEM,” he said. “It’s key to identify where there is common ground and build trusting relationships. We want to bring people together in a positive arena where their voices are heard and they can connect with people who have similar experiences. We want to help empower them to be agents of change and feel better connected to each other and to community leaders.”


Stout said there is some start-up funding available for action plans that are developed through these dialogues and grassroots efforts. It boils down to identifying common ground and building trust and relationships.


“We’re trying to find ways to productively come together and more forward. There aren’t a lot of models that look like this,” he said.

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