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Diversity gets ‘reel’

The Parthenon

Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 00:02

020212

Marissa Demaria l The Parthenon

Brian C. Johnson delivers his speech “Reel Diversity” to an audience of students Wednesday in the Don Morris Room. Johnson was brought in by the Signature Events Committee and the Student Activities Programming Board.


The Signature Events Committee at Marshall University has partnered with the Student Activities Programming Board to bring speaker Brian C. Johnson to campus.  Johnson has been noted as a "compassionate speaker, committed to engaging college students in safe, fun and interactive ways," according to campuspeak.com.

Johnson spoke Wednesday in the Don Morris Room to address what he views as one of the most "hotly contested, anger and fear-inducing topics that we have. That topic is diversity and it is frustrating to me," Johnson said.

"As a diversity educator, I look at this as an opportunity for us to really engage in what real community is all about," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, the way we shape diversity in higher education, by pointing fingers of blame, we see diversity as a problem that needs to be solved. Instead of saying, man, we have all of this stuff we can love on in the midst of all of these differences."

Johnson serves as a faculty member in the department of developmental instruction at Bloomsburg University and is the director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for Academic Excellence. He is currently a doctoral student in Communications Media and Instructional Technology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Johnson's keynote, "Reel Diversity," framed the diversity conversation through modern film.

"He's taking modern-day movie clips and showing you how messages are being sent to you, whether you know it or not," said Tracy Eggleston, residence life specialist for the Department of Housing and Residence Life. "He is showing how that shapes your mind into thinking certain things about different groups."

Johnson explained to audience members how movies shape our culture.

"Movies are a lot more than entertainment," Johnson said. "They are one of the biggest cultural forces that we have, and a lot of times we don't know how we have been programmed by the films we watch. The goal is for people to see how we have been impacted or influenced by images on screen. It is also a way to educate and entertain at the same time."

Johnson speaks at 15 to 25 venues each semester, promoting his keynote speeches. Those speeches are heavily influenced by a goal of  "helping people understand that diversity does not have to be this horrible topic. That is the centralized mission of what I do," Johnson said.

"Brian's presentation is really funny and interactive with the audience," Eggleston said.  "We didn't want this to be lecture style – students are in class all day. Diversity is one of those subjects that people shy away from, so why not have an open forum where students can feel comfortable speaking about this and asking questions?"

Eggleston oversees the Signature Events committee, consisting of resident advisers and resident directors in the Department of Housing and Residence Life. The committee's mission is to establish "memories and traditions on Marshall's campus," Eggleston said.

One audience member, Ebony Robinson, resident adviser of Holderby Hall, notes Johnson as, "educated, enthusiastic and compassionate."

"He speaks with such conviction," she said.

Robinson said that the ultimate message to take away from the program was that better communication will help us to bypass discrimination.

While Johnson spoke mostly of diversity, he also spoke with great rigor about the need for better communication in society.  

"The ultimate or underlying message of what I do in this program is that we have to learn how to talk to each other," Johnson said. "Communication is the cornerstone in every community, and if we can reduce the fear and anxiety and just get people to talk to one another, then we can grow our communities leaps and bounds. I hope people walk away saying, ‘wow, I never thought about it like that before.' That is my entire mission, to get people to think."

The Signature Events Committee at Marshall University has partnered with the Student Activities Programming Board to bring speaker Brian C. Johnson to campus.  Johnson has been noted as a "compassionate speaker, committed to engaging college students in safe, fun and interactive ways," according to campuspeak.com.

Johnson spoke Wednesday in the Don Morris Room to address what he views as one of the most "hotly contested, anger and fear-inducing topics that we have. That topic is diversity and it is frustrating to me," Johnson said.

"As a diversity educator, I look at this as an opportunity for us to really engage in what real community is all about," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, the way we shape diversity in higher education, by pointing fingers of blame, we see diversity as a problem that needs to be solved. Instead of saying, man, we have all of this stuff we can love on in the midst of all of these differences."

Johnson serves as a faculty member in the department of developmental instruction at Bloomsburg University and is the director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for Academic Excellence. He is currently a doctoral student in Communications Media and Instructional Technology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Johnson's keynote, "Reel Diversity," framed the diversity conversation through modern film.

"He's taking modern-day movie clips and showing you how messages are being sent to you, whether you know it or not," said Tracy Eggleston, residence life specialist for the Department of Housing and Residence Life. "He is showing how that shapes your mind into thinking certain things about different groups."

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