Session Three Class Reflection by Mark Meredith, Class of 2019 – Helena
As I reflect on the time our class spent in Hamilton and Missoula, one word seems to capture the essence of our experience: diversity.
The word diversity tends to take on many definitions depending on who you ask. The most common might be attributed to a group with a balance of gender, ethnicity, social status, age, or sexual orientation. I would argue it goes much deeper and our class had the honor of witnessing it first hand, not only from the community level but within our group as well.
Our Gracious Space sessions focused on inviting the stranger. Inviting those with different points of view and experiences, while engaging with an open mind and a willingness to listen and grow is yet another means of celebrating diversity. Our community conversations and local tours brought a wide range of folks together for meaningful discussion and an opportunity to learn. Dairy farmer, city and county government, food bank director, game warden, realtor, health insurance representative, developer, public school leader. Talk about diverse.
Furthermore, the class was able to participate in an eye-opening experience where we recognized and celebrated diversity among ourselves by anonymously exposing some of our life experiences. An emotional and empowering exercise to say the least and one I won’t soon forget. The exercise highlighted the fact that diversity goes much deeper than what we can see, feel, or know.
I would be remiss to omit that fact that we had a little fun as well. Bonding over karaoke and pizza, mingling with the Board of Regents at Washington Grizzly Stadium, and being wined and dined on Dennis Washington’s Silver Cloud passenger train are clearly highlights of the week.
The energy, emotion, and sense of team hit a new high while visiting Hamilton and Missoula. The seeds were clearly planted during our first couple sessions and seeing them bloom is truly remarkable. The “Fine 1-9” is a class to be reckoned with and I look forward to our coming sessions.