Lisa Je ’19 RGLP Reflection: Building a Platform for Dialogue

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together 25 student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston, Montreal, or New York City, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. The Spring 2019 cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

I had gone into RGLP with a desire to learn how to connect with others who are different from me. As a queer first generation, low-income student with numerous “labels” associated with who I was, I thought I knew what it was like to be the “other” in Dartmouth’s society. My desire to be part of RGLP was partially driven by wanting to understand and connect with the Dartmouth majority. This is because I know that the Dartmouth majority will be part of my working career, social life, and community and that mentalities such as “us vs them” was not the dialogue I wanted to leave Dartmouth with. However, I have realized that my own biases are challenges to efficient communication and working effectively across different cultures (race, economic, and identity to name a few).

Based on my biases of individualism and localism, I believe (and still do believe) that the individual has the ability to take initiative and make a difference in their/other’s lives. However, I am also open to understanding the collective as a whole and to hear what others, especially those from an opposing viewpoint of mine, have to say which may benefit the group as a whole. While one person alone cannot change the world, a leader can locally organize and create change for their community such as afterschool programs like Sunset Park Recreation Centeror murals to beautify neighborhoods in the 88 Gates Project Chinatown NYC. These changes can trickle into semi-local, state, federal and international organizations which have great impact. A challenge of globalism is keeping the strong ties that these local institutions have created within a bigger and growing community. 

Just like in fluid dynamics when one is scaling to a prototype from a model (which requires “kinematic” and “dynamic” similarity), scaling up a local organization to a global organization requires “moving” and “organic” similarity (the scaling of groups, people, and relationships). With a correct scaling of human relationships in a large global organization, the organization’s goals can be achieved because of a strong sense of accountability and community. However, it is also possible in a large organization, one can be less inclined towards the organization’s overall aims because a lack of belonging or feeling like a “cog” in the system. This continues where local communities can pose as a challenge to larger collaborations because if these local communities do not support global aims, then there would be no foundation in certain regions that direly need support. Thus, local communities are central to globalism because the local community is where most of the human interaction takes place. 

With this in mind, the most important tools in building platform for dialogue across difference is having an open mind, creating a space for the conversations that are often not wanted to be talked about, and listening to the controversial viewpoints that would normally enrage me. By listening to this frustration, I can ask myself why I am reacting this way and reach a deeper understanding of difference in a respectful way. This means having more local conversations about mental health, under-funded resources at Dartmouth, undocumented students present here at the Ivory Tower, and the lack of women/people of color faculty among other topics. 

-Written by Lisa Je ’19, Spring 2019 RGLP Participant

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.