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OEO Approaches Diversity through Literature

As part of its Workplace Diversity Initiative, the Office of Equal Opportunity has unveiled its Diversity Book Bridge Project. The project is an innovative approach to learning about diversity in the work force through reading and discussing issues reflected in literature and relating them to the NIH environment.

While many books might have been chosen, Naomi Churchill, director of OEO, heeded the recommendation of Dr. Mary Brown, educator, diversity specialist and Book Bridge Project coordinator for OEO. The book choice, Brothers & Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell, and project outline, were modeled after the Prince George's Community College Project, where Brown is a faculty member. Brothers & Sisters features a range of characters set in Los Angeles in the weeks and months following the Rodney King verdict and the ensuing riot.

On hand at a recent Book Bridge Project forum were (from l) Joan Brogan of OEO, Susan Persons from OBSSR, Michael Reilley of OEO and project coordinator Dr. Mary Brown.

OEO invites employees to read the novel in preparation for forums where subjects drawn from the book are discussed. The forums include dramatic readings from the novel, presentations by expert panelists on diversity issues, and an opportunity for dialogue between panelists and the audience. The theme for the project is "Enhancing the Environment through Active Communication."

The first forum was held Oct. 5, when panelists explored the subject of sexual harassment. Susan Persons of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research spoke of social behavior (both good and bad) that occurs in the text of Brothers & Sisters. The discussion brought out the role that sex/gender-stereotyping and power relationships play in condoning sexual harassment in the workplace. Michael Reilley of OEO spoke on recent United States Supreme Court cases that have begun to affect policies that regulate behavior in the workplace.

The following four forums are scheduled through May 1999, in Bldg. 1, Wilson Hall, 9 to 10:30 a.m.: Monday, Nov. 30 -- Diversity in the Scientific Community; Monday, Jan. 25, 1999 -- Welfare-to-Work; Monday, Mar. 29, 1999 -- Community Involvement (Church, School, Neighborhoods, Citizen Groups); Monday, May 24, 1999 -- Author Bebe Moore Campbell Visits NIH.

For more information contact Joan Brogan or Gary Morin, 402-3663 or 496-9755 (TTY).


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