Music Theatre student leads diversity seminars for students, faculty and staff

During fall 2018, Tres McMichael ‘19 presented a series of seminars entitled MT LIDS, which focused on finding ways in which bias and non-inclusive language can be eliminated from the Music Theatre program.

By Andrew Purdy '20, Elon College Fellows

As a Music Theatre major and an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow, Tres McMichael ‘19 is no stranger to using his public speaking skills to make a difference. During the fall semester of 2018, he put these skills to use in the Music Theatre program, presenting a series of seminars to his peers and professors.

“The ‘Music Theatre: Leadership, Inclusion, and Diversity Seminars’ were developed for the students, faculty and staff of the Music Theatre department at Elon,” said McMichael. “Having faced various situations surrounding bias and noninclusive language toward minority students within the department, these seminars served as a benchmark for highlighting the narratives of those students and providing a collaborative diversity and inclusion training for the entire community.”

Over the course of two days in September and October, McMichael in partnership with the Center for Leadership and Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education led the community in various activities, including a “gallery walk” containing stories of community members, a “values clarification” activity, as well as small and large group discussions.

According to Tres, “Session one, ‘Awareness and Knowledge,’ provided members of the community with data from a preliminary survey completed by all participants and written narratives from individuals who have felt marginalized. In session two, ‘Skills and Action,’ community members worked together to understand shared values and how they can reject bias and non-inclusive language.”

The seminars were well-received, leading to McMichael receiving invitations to present to other academic departments, as well as at the Seattle Arts Leadership Conference in March 2019.

“Over the course of my four years at Elon, I have found myself frustrated with the actions of others that can often polarize and alienate groups and individuals because of their difference,” said McMichael. “Through this seminar series, I tried to put my frustration into action. I asked the department to give me two days to ‘try something out’ and they agreed. They put 100 percent of their faith in me and I am glad that everyone was able to take something away by the end. I am so thankful to the entire Music Theatre community for fully participating and trusting me to lead them through difficult dialogue. Change doesn't happen fast, but I am happy to be a part of the process.”