ACA Blog

Tara Overzat
Feb 18, 2011

Day 1 of Privilege, Identity, and Cross-Cultural Diversity

10th Annual Southeastern Conference on Cross-Cultural Issues in Counseling and Education

I have just returned from another fantastic counseling conference, this time hosted by Georgia Southern University and held in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. The conference began Friday morning at the Coastal Georgia Center with Keynote speaker Lee Mun Wah, a master diversity trainer from Berkeley, California. Lee’s work includes the documentaries The Color of Fear and Last Chance for Eden wherein he challenges diverse groups to truly communicate about racial and cultural experiences. He started the keynote at the conference by asking all of us to get our things together and get up from our seats. He next asked us to look around the room and find someone who “different” from us and without talking, to make eye contact and go to that person so that we would have a partner to sit with. Now, it felt a little too awkward to stay completely silent, though we tried. Throughout the remainder of the presentation, Lee would have us turn to our partner to discuss questions of race and identity. My heart was touched by the stories my partner shared with me, and we both hoped that our children’s generation would not have to go through the same difficulties.

I next attended a session led by La Vera C. Potts of Foundations Counseling Services, which focused on a case study of a young girl from an impoverished and troubled family. The challenge was how to career counsel a young woman in that situation and a talk ensued on what could be done to help her with her career aspiration of becoming a lawyer. Though the obstacles were stacked high, I was relieved to learn that the real girl that the case study was based on achieved high educational goals and now has a good life.

After lunch, I had the pleasure of attending a session led by Laurie Lankin, Ph.D., along with graduate students April Mojica, Thommi Odom, Lane H. Pease, and Denise Rountree all of my school, Mercer University. The presentation focused on experiential activities for the classroom or workshop that one could use to enliven a discussion on cultural identity and diversity. The presenters had us up out of our seats, meeting other people in the room for “diversity bingo” and then having thoughtful discussions with the person seated next to us about our cultural identities. They very helpfully handed out a resource guide at the end of the presentation containing the activities we had done along with ideas for other ways to get groups involved.

Binyao Zheng, Ph.D., of Kennesaw State University, gave an insightful talk about the cultural history of China and demystified the behavior of Chinese residents in the United States, highlighting why they are likely to be quiet in the classroom as well as why they may surprise their professors with visits, rather than make appointments. His personal experience of growing up in the Wuhan province of China and then living and working in the United States gave us a firsthand look at acculturation and bridging the gap between differences in perception.

Sarah Littlebear and Shelley Reed of Auburn University presented “Meaning and Meaninglessness in a Diverse Culture” which focused on using existential theory with various multicultural groups. William Cross Jr., Ph.D. – author of Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American Identity and currently a professor at University of Nevada – Las Vegas – sat in the session and added insightful commentary to their presentation.

A summary of Day 2 of the conference is forthcoming! In the meantime, check out the link on the conference below.

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Tara Overzat is a counselor-in-training at Mercer University in Atlanta and a counseling intern at a substance abuse treatment center. Her interests include multicultural issues, acculturation amongst college students, and substance abuse recovery

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