Innovation, Mindfulness, and Diversity: JCU Hosts TEDxJohnCabotUniversity
On November 16, John Cabot University hosted the second edition of TEDxJohnCabotUniversity. TEDx events are independently organized under license by TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx brings together passionate individuals who seek to share their ideas and spark conversations in their communities. This edition’s speakers are members of the JCU community: Jenn Lindsay, social scientist, documentary filmmaker, video journalist, and adjunct professor; Andrea Guerriero, physician, and healthcare entrepreneur; and Giulia Ricci, Student Cultural Programs and Activities Coordinator.
Jenn Lindsay: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training: No “One Size Fits All”
Lindsay began her talk with a personal example of how we are affected by the social and cultural influences that condition us from childhood. She questions the efficiency of diversity training programs designed to facilitate positive intergroup interaction and teach individuals to work together effectively. She argues that much of diversity training today is ineffective because it is mandated and is often “too superficial, reassuring, and short-term.” These programs are insufficient to create the paradigm shift that is needed. Lindsay suggests that “different diversity training programs work differently for different people at different times.” Achieving social inclusivity is difficult because people have deep-rooted cognitive biases.
The reasons to devise diversity training programs that work are varied. Given the estimated social and economic costs of racism and sexism, the inevitability of diversity, and the concrete benefits of cooperation across social divides, now is the perfect time to develop effective training methods toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sociologists who study biases have established that the two major levers for social change are self-awareness and “meaningful contact across social divides.” Key elements in the establishment of bias come from socialization, everyday interaction, and media. Therefore, Lindsay proposes documentary film as a powerful agent for social change. The potential for reaching both the heart and the mind through the visual storytelling provided by documentary film comes from the fact that its impact is much the same as meaningful face-to-face contact. Visual information is embedded in the long-term memory and constitutes about 90% of the information retained.
One documentary film alone is not enough, however. Therefore, Lindsay proposes the creation of an episodic docuseries that would allow viewers to practice the experience of meaningful contact, form new neural pathways, and make new positive emotional associations. An effective documentary needs to have a good, well-told story with visual elements that advance a positive, or at least accurate, representation of a social group. The story needs to be told repeatedly over time. No single diversity training program can mitigate the challenges of unharmonious diversity. No diversity training program is perfect. Real change requires a shift on two levels: legal and cultural. Cultural change is long-term and requires vision and multiple approaches. Diversity training that has visual and repetitive components has greater potential. It taps into the creativity and diversity that is at the heart of pluralism.
Andrea Guerriero: A Physician’s Journey into Entrepreneurship
As a physician, Dr. Guerriero observes and listens to people as part of his profession. While flying back to Rome in 2012, he observed tourists traveling to Italy and wondered how they would navigate a foreign healthcare system. He wondered what he, as an English-speaking physician, could do to reach people who travel to Italy for work or vacation and help them overcome the language barrier. He began by presenting himself to local hotels and B&Bs, and he did manage to help some of these visitors to Italy. Yet, he wanted to expand his scope. He wanted to create a community of like-minded physicians and reach more people. He eventually created a community of doctors called MedinAction that provides English-speaking house-call doctors and online consultations.
Guerriero discovered entrepreneurship through a dedicated workshop. There, he learned about the entrepreneurial mindset. He learned how to create a team that shares a vision, how to communicate within his team members and how to promote their ideas and services. He learned the importance of collecting and acting on feedback to improve the team’s effectiveness.. Today, he is joined by over 100 doctors who are working together, sharing the same vision, enthusiasm, and medical expertise. Guerriero, emphasizing how devoted he is to his patients, pointed out “as an individual physician, I can help only 10 or 20 patients a day, but as a physician-entrepreneur I can help hundreds, even thousands of people a day!”
Extremely appreciative of the entrepreneurial mindset, Guerriero concluded by inviting the audience to act upon their idea. “If you have an idea, don’t wait. Take action.”
Giulia Ricci: Emotions, a Journey Through a Moment Out of Time.
Ricci begins her talk about emotion, courage, and desire by inviting the audience to meditate and follow her on a brief, virtual walk in Piazza San Marco in Venice. She guides her closed-eyed listeners through the crowd, careful not to step on the pigeons, while drawing attention to the color of the sky, the sound of the church bells, and the perfume of the roasted chestnuts for sale by the street-vendors. This mindful way of experiencing one’s surroundings, this emotional and sensorial awareness is fundamental to understanding oneself and others. Describing how her personal journey through emotions began, Ricci shared what she learned from the experience of emotionally elaborating the death of a loved one and how she came to realize the power of Life and the strength that can come from within everyone.
While studying journalism and literature at university, Ricci became interested in psychology and spirituality. Today, she organizes activities for university students who come from many countries to study in Rome. Her mission is to help them create new memories that are connected to their emotions. Inspired by psychologist Paul Ekman’s work with his daughter Eve Ekman on the Atlas of Emotions, which is supported by the Dalai Lama, Ricci has created a program in which she guides students through meditation and other exercises that enhance their experience of places helping them to develop a mindful approach. She organizes trips that bring students in contact with natural and cultural beauty, such as the Botanical Garden in Rome, wine tasting experiences, cooking classes, and trips to Italian cities such as Matera and Venice. During these trips, Ricci helps students create their own emotional souvenirs that will last forever, what she calls “their star.” She concludes her talk by inviting the audience to use their five senses to better connect with themselves, their surroundings, and to create their own star.