Q. What is ARiA? 

A: It’s a free virtual experience that enables you to connect with people from across the country who work in higher ed. These small discussion groups are led by volunteer facilitators who use a “what-why-how” content model to guide interactive conversation about racism. Participants can learn about 1 of 5 #ROLLAP topics per month: Reach Out, Listen, Learn, Act and Persist. 

Facilitators are provided with content which they are able to expand upon using additional resources, experiences and subject matter expertise. 

The benefit of this experience is the ability to privately engage in dialogue in safe spaces with colleagues from various institutions, positions and regions. ARiA discussion groups create a space for self-examination and personal growth. For some, the experience has been a launchpad for taking more concrete action in building a more inclusive culture from within their spheres or influence. 

Q: I missed the kickoff webinar for the month, but would like to participate in this month’s breakout sessions. How can I do that?

A: You need not have attended the kickoff webinar to participate in the breakout sessions for the month. The kickoff webinars are meant to introduce the topic of the month and provide instructions on how to enroll in a breakout session. 

Q: I would like to sign up for a breakout session, but I am not sure if one available. Where do I check?

A: Breakout sessions typically fill up within 48 hours of being announced. Sold out sessions will be marked as such or may not be visible at all. There is a “waitlist” ticket you can register for that will allow you to indicate what sold out sessions you are interested in. If any of those sold out sessions have a cancellation, the ARiA team will contact waitlisted individuals to offer the open slot.

Q: I attended a breakout session, and the experience was great. However, my discussion group was not diverse. Can you ensure (racial) diversity going forward?

A: While this is an absolutely wonderful suggestion, it is not something we can directly control. 

First, we welcome diversity in all of its forms, but we cannot control for it. Also, recruiting and ensuring racial diversity in every breakout session places an unjust amount of burden on Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC). Any one person’s (BIPOC or not) or their personal experiences does not represent an entire race, culture or ethnicity from which they come. Also, reliving, often negative, experiences through storytelling or information sharing can be traumatic; it is certainly mentally exhausting. Learning can be self-guided through credible publications, videos, and social media. In fact, this must be a primary way individuals learn about the issues because it is unfair to expect BIPOC to always lead or participate in race-focused conversations.  We welcome BIPOC who choose to participate in ARiA, but we do not hold them accountable for representing racial diversity in every discussion. 

Second, we do not screen personal information about who chooses to participate in the breakout sessions as facilitators or as attendees.  We do promote the ARiA program across various higher education professional associations with the intent of reaching a more diverse audience. If you are a member of a higher education association or organization that you think might influence the racial diversity of participants/facilitators, please consider sharing ARiA program information with the group.

Third, even if the group appears very homogeneous in a particular way, each person is likely to be at a different stage in their own learning journey. The ARiA program is all about acknowledging this fact and helping us grow from each other. While the group may not be racially diverse, there may be other aspects of diversity inherently present. Check out this resource that lists 34 types of diversity in the workplace.

Q: I would like to take this program back to our institution. Where can I get the materials? 

A: As part of the current version of the program, we are developing facilitator resource kits to provide consistency, guidelines and content to volunteers. These kits are not publicly available, but the AriA coordinators are working towards enhancing them for a DIY take-home ARiA program for organizations to use internally in 2021.

Q: Do I have to be a member of a professional association/organization to participate?

A: No. There are 3 ways in which you can participate in the ARiA program and none of them require membership in any professional association (e.g. NERCOMP, EDUCAUSE, NCCI, the Leading Change Institute (formerly Frye), NACUBO). The only eligibility requirement is that you are an employee in a higher ed institution (including professional associations for higher ed).

First, you can be a volunteer facilitator for one of the monthly topics. Second, you can attend a kick-off webinar to learn about ARiA, the topic of the month, and how to enroll in a breakout session. Third, you can participate in a breakout session – the heart of the entire ARiA initiative. 

Q: Do I need to attend an event every month? 

A: No. This program is a learning journey series divided by topic by month. It is designed for you to participate in the topics most relevant to you, whether that be all 5 parts, just 1, or something in between. 

Q: How can I subscribe to this program?

A: There is no way to subscribe to the program specifically, but you can subscribe to receiving information about upcoming events directly from us. 

The primary method of communications for the ARiA program is via mailing list announcements. We are currently promoting this program through the NERCOMP, EDUCAUSE, NCCI, the Leading Change Institute (formerly Frye), and NACUBO communities. We recognize that you may hear about ARiA via word-of-mouth (or forwarded email), so we’ve created an events newsletter that you can subscribe to directly to receive program announcements.