Hoos Brave?

Diane Ober
Friday, June 23, 2017

We all know what safe space is, right? We articulate it as an environment that allows us to discuss controversial topics with honesty, sensitivity, and respect. We use safe space frequently in our CLE classes as a way to ensure participant confidentiality and encourage honest sharing. Recently I learned of a new way to frame how we talk about controversial issues. It’s called brave space, and we now incorporate this in our classes and workshops on diversity and inclusion.

But let me back up a bit and tell you how I learned about this idea and why we are using it.

Currently the CLE offers two classes, Multicultural Fluency and Growing Deeper: The Power of Privilege, which have been popular both as open enrollment classes and as workshops for our learning groups, and for UVA teams and departments.

The Multicultural Fluency class was created by Tabitha “Tab” Enoch from Student Affairs and John Alexander from Shanti, both of whom have been facilitating this for more than three years. The class lays the groundwork for exploring the crucial topic of diversity and inclusion as employees at UVA. The need for this exploration and training continues to grow, which is reflected partially by the increasing requests for this workshop from departments and schools. As such, Tab, John, and I realized we needed to expand our small group to include more people who could assist with creating and delivering classes and workshops about diversity and inclusion. To this end, we gathered a group of four other UVA staff to discuss, explore, and in particular, to lend expertise to professional development opportunities for staff and faculty.

In one of our first meetings, a new member named Val shared an article with us, From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. At its core, brave space recognizes that difficult conversations rarely mean being free of discomfort or difficulty and that labeling space as “safe” encourages staying in an “I’ll agree to disagree” position which does little to foster real understanding or learning. When exploring and learning about diversity and inclusion, we must create ground rules that encourage us to stretch our understanding and comfort zones to see things from another’s perspective. The honesty, sensitivity, and respect that are invoked by “safe space” remains vital, but the exploration is deepened as we encourage ourselves to be brave as well.

This slide we use in our classes helps rephrase the environment we wish to create:

Moving from Safe to Brave

Making the change to brave space seems to resonate with our class participants and helps in diving deeper into the topic, which of course helps in learning!

By the way, we call our group of seven staff from around Grounds, Hoos Brave!  I’m very grateful to be a part of a group that allows me to continue educating myself about diversity and inclusion issues in our culture and in our University and whose members assist in creating and facilitating classes and workshops for us all.

I encourage you to attend these classes and practice being a brave Hoo!

Thank you to the rest of the Hoos Brave team!

Tabitha Enoch
John Alexander
Valencia Harvey
Daniel Fairley
Faran Saeed
Jess Dollar