Eric Love wants to engage staff from all across the University and at every level of employment in building a more inclusive Notre Dame community. He organized the MLK Unity Summit to help in that endeavor.
“We’re here to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Love said. “Part of his dream was building community. Part of my role is helping to build a community that is conducive to everyone doing their best work.”
Nearly 60 people participated in the two-hour event that primarily consisted of small-group interaction to help people get to know each other and share some of their life experiences.
This is the second year for the event, which was held in conjunction with the University’s Walk the Walk Week observance.
“Whoever you are, if you’re here, you’re a part of the Notre Dame family and should be treated with dignity and respect. But that’s not enough,” said Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion. “We also have to treat others with dignity and speak up when we see others who aren’t being included.”
Before the Unity Summit began, Love asked people not to sit with people they knew and to ensure gender and cultural diversity at each table. He helped the groups get comfortable sharing their stories with each other by first focusing on some commonalities in the room, such as place of birth, college experience and length of time working at Notre Dame.
Each table was then guided through several discussion questions aimed to help participants connect with each other to build or enhance relationships.
Love was joined at the event by leadership from the University’s employee resource groups, or ERGs. Previously existing groups represented were the Black Faculty and Staff Association, THRIVE! Inspiring ND Women and Young Leaders of Notre Dame. New groups were also represented – Spectrum, the LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and ally) group, the veterans group, international group and Hispanic/Latino group.
“We want to engage our entire community, not just Hispanics. We’re excited to have another ERG available for everyone,” said Angel Zambrano, a financial analyst and member of the Hispanic/Latino group. The Notre Dame graduate, who is from Caracas, Venezuela, encouraged people interested in Hispanic/Latino culture to sign up for leadership roles or general membership in the group.
ERGs provide a network of support for their members that includes social interaction, cultural events and professional development. The groups also assist the University with faculty/staff recruitment and retention.
Whether by joining an employee resource group, engaging in dialogue with others or some other act, the Unity Summit emphasized that everyone can play a role in building community at Notre Dame.
“We don’t have to go through some elaborate scheme to make people feel at home. Look people in the eye. Say ‘hello.’ Greet them. Little things like that will help,” Love advised.