Across Lexington on Wednesday hundreds of conversations took place as small groups of citizens gathered in coffee shops, restaurants, classrooms and community centers to discuss the idea of what it means to belong. On Transy’s campus more than 100 students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community filled tables in the Campus Center gym to share a meal and discuss the topic of belonging and creating communities that foster inclusion.
Presented by the Blue Grass Community Foundation, On the Table is a civic initiative that invites everyone in the Bluegrass region to join a small group of people for an hourlong conversation about issues at the heart of our community. This is the third year On the Table has taken place in Lexington, which is one of 10 cities nationally that are hosting On the Table conversations.
Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde, both faculty members at Transylvania, are members of the Engagement Committee for the citywide event as well as the hosts for the Transy event.
“On the Table 2019 is an opportunity to be part of a vitally important conversation—one we really should be having every day about how to transform the communities we live or work in so they are truly inclusive,” said Todorova
Survey results from the last two year’s events revealed that equity, social inclusion and race relations are key topics of interest. In response, On the Table 2019 was developed to explore “how contributing to everyone’s sense of belonging — especially those from historically marginalized communities — can help us cultivate diverse relationships, increase civic participation and ownership, and build a more equitable city.”
Taran McZee, Transylvania’s associate vice president for diversity and inclusion, hosted one of the tables at the event on campus. He specifically invited staff and faculty members to focus the discussion around the issues of inclusion on campus.
“I think the benefit for On the Table was allowing people at Transylvania University to come together and have true and authentic conversation around a sense of belonging and the topic of race,” he said. “I think it’s important for our institution and allowed faculty, administration and students an opportunity to speak openly about their existence on this campus and in Lexington.”
Around the gym each individual table served as a separate small group with a discussion led by a host for the evening. While the event was scheduled for only an hour, many of the conversations continued on past the hour mark.
For Assistant Director of Student Transitions Denise Hall, the event “felt like a productive starting place for us all to discuss important issues for our campus community. I hope we will have more conversations like this in the future.”