An Organized Approach to Student Employee Training on Microaggressions
Audon Archibald, B.S., Alvin Akibar, M.S., Everrett Moore, B.S., Kyjeila Latimer, B.S.
We often assume that our day to day experiences are similar to that of others, even if our individual realities are far removed from one another. Two individuals may come away with completely different interpretations of the same situation. Among these are microaggressions– often unintentional or non-overt verbal, behavioral, and environmental manifestations of bias. Microaggressions may invalidate a person’s achievements based on their identities (e.g. suggesting a Black student must only be in school on athletic scholarships) or make assumptions that a person must be interested in a topic purely anchored on their identity (e.g. Asian students being asked about their expertise in school without consideration otherwise). These comments incite stress in the moment they are delivered and relate to negative long-term outcomes, such as lower self-esteem and even weakened immune system responses (Sue, 2010).
Training participants reported strong connection to the sentiments expressed in the film, with almost a third reporting that they themselves had experienced the same microaggression described in the film. Over half of the student residence life employees reported a better understanding of what microaggressions were, and also felt more confident and empowered to intervene if witnessing microaggressions against another. Participants also reported that the video and group discussion portions of the experience were the most preferred and successful parts of the training, suggesting that other training ventures should include these components. Overall, student employees responded favorably to the training and most successfully took away valuable strategies (e.g., such as sharing personal experiences to challenge underlying stereotypes of assumptions) and definitions (e.g., differentiating impact and intent of microassaults, microinvalidations, and microinsults) to prep them to effectively support the undergraduate students they oversee. The importance of this support, especially for students from historically marginalized backgrounds, cannot be understated as a key factor in student success.
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