The third cultural workshop talks about stereotypes and bias 

The third and final Culture Understanding Workshop, titled “Stereotypes and Intercultural Collaboration,” was held Tuesday. This was a three-part series in which students learned different ways to communicate with people from different cultures. 

The third workshop’s focus was on recognizing bias and stereotypical thinking and finding solutions to real-world problems. Zeke Sorenson, one of the speakers, shared insights on fostering cultural collaboration. 

The other speaker, Orlando Jayasiri Gunesekere, delved into the topics of microaggressions and stereotypes. Sorenson emphasized bias is a natural part of our cognitive process, but we are often unaware of how our biases shape our actions. 

“It’s difficult to acknowledge when we’re being called out for maybe making problematic statements or decisions because we haven’t taken the time to reflect on our own biases, to acknowledge that when that happens,” said Sorenson. “Our tendency is to get very defensive. Somebody points out that something we said may be a little bit racist. Our gut reaction is to get defensive. We may make that comment without realizing the impact that it has on somebody else.” 

Sorenson said the best way to communicate in those situations is to remember people make mistakes and everyone is human. Often, people realize their mistakes later in the day and don’t reach out, but Sorenson said to reach out to the other person and see what impact it had on them. 

“More often than not, we may come to that realization, but our pride or ego will get in the way, and we don’t do anything about it. Always reach back out to that person and say, ‘Hey, you know what? I got defensive. Give me some time to think about this. But let’s come back together and talk about that,’” said Sorenson. “Leaving that door open, so if that person realizes and wants to continue that relationship, continue working on it, and build upon it, it gives them the opportunity to come back in and know that that person is going to be willing to work with them as well.”

Stereotypes and biases exist in the real world; they aren’t some myth. Sorenson said many people are uncomfortable talking about it. Because of that, they may lack understanding or don’t take time to reflect. They also said it takes time to understand it, too, and it doesn’t happen overnight. 

“If we shy away from talking about it simply because it’s uncomfortable, we’re never going to get to a point where we can acknowledge that these things happen. Most of the biases we have, we don’t even know that we have, but our brains have made those shortcuts,” said Sorenson. “You have to keep doing the work, and you have to keep being willing to do that reflection and keep doing it.” 

Sorenson said they hope students who walked away from the three workshops gain a new perspective they hadn’t considered. They also hope there will be more of these events, as it allows more students to attend. Having three sessions doesn’t always work with everyone’s schedules, and having more would increase the likelihood of students being able to go. 

“The topics that we’ve talked about in these sessions, is it going to be able to give everybody all the knowledge and, it’s to give them those perspectives to consider and hopefully give them the encouragement to seek out more knowledge,” said Sorenson. “We all have different experiences throughout our life and a lot of times we don’t understand it, and that’s okay. But the very least we could do is take the time to try to understand why a person does what they do or why a person believes what they do. We may not agree with them and that’s okay.”

Write to Lauren Viska at

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