Coalition Building Institution Celebrates Anniversary

Posted: August 10, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

The National Coalition Building Institution (NCBI) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the George Mason chapter will be joining in the celebration. George Mason/Northern Virginia became an NCBI chapter 11 years ago and has since blossomed into a successful organization that has had an effect on teaching methods on campus, in the community, and in people’s personal lives.

The organization works to eliminate prejudice and intergroup conflict, and hosts workshops and training sessions to facilitate open discussions and build authentic relationships while focusing on prejudice reduction, conflict resolution, and leadership training. The group also participates in special events on campus. The NCBI program was ranked several years ago by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the best campus peer training programs in the country. NCBI members have incorporated their model of teaching into curricula all across the university.

NCBI often provides a space for faculty, staff, and students to express their emotions and talk openly. In response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NCBI-trained facilitators immediately set up 12-hour open discussions in the Johnson Center for anyone to come talk about the situation. In the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq, NCBI invited the Mason community to literally read the writing on the wall by posting students’ thoughts and concerns in the Johnson Center. A similar project, an interactive art show in the Fine Arts Gallery, also allowed people to express their opinions about the war.

“It is really important for students to know they have a space for conversation, that they have a caring university administrative system that values individuals’ feelings and thoughts,” says Dennis Webster, director of the Multicultural Research and Resource Center and one of the chapter’s founders.

However, the chapter’s programs and resources are not only designed to respond to current events and crises. “Most of NCBI’s work throughout the years has been proactive,” says Rose Pascarell, associate dean for University Life. The group has more than 40 requests for workshops from faculty members each semester, and many organizations on campus incorporate NCBI methodology into their events. The chapter also works closely with the Graduate School of Education, teaching future teachers who have gone on to use the NCBI principles and practices in elementary and middle schools. Groups such as the Psychology Student Diversity Affairs Committee host dialogues and workshops based on NCBI models that deal with current issues such as terrorism or same-sex marriages.

The NCBI chapter hosts several workshop throughout the year for people interested in learning more about conflict resolution and prejudice reduction, and offers a three-day Train-the-Trainer in May for those interested in becoming NCBI facilitators. Individuals may get in involved as volunteers or interns for academic credit.

For more information about NCBI, visit its web site or e-mail gmuncbi@gmu.edu.

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