Challenging Stereotypes and Singularity – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Challenging Stereotypes and Singularity

In the spirit of cultural exchange and new perspectives, five students shared stories of unique experiences during the annual HWS Impact forum and dinner on Monday, Oct. 2 in Bartlett Theatre.

“Challenging prevailing stories on our campus or in our individual hearts and minds is extremely important in order to derive what is the truth of a particular experience– be that alcoholism or life in the Middle East. Just as we are better students by calling out stereotypes in a discussion of the Middle East and North Africa, we are better people when we call out stereotyping of other groups,” explains Bart Lahiff ’20, one of the forum’s student speakers.

This year’s forum is inspired by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie and her viral TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” in which she reflected on the stereotypes she faced in the United States as a Nigerian immigrant. Resonating throughout the world, Adichie’s perception of stereotypes has called for greater cross-cultural understanding.

“We hope to provide students with the ability to reclaim their own narrative, share their complex humanity and come together as a community to explore how we can dispel the single stories that are perpetuated on our own campus,” says Darline Polanco Wattles ’09, assistant director of Intercultural Affairs.

Alexia Sereti ’18 performed a spoken word poem as a storyteller during the event. “I’ve never had the opportunity to experience it in the form of spoken word, an art form I find incredibly powerful and effective in communicating more than just an idea, but an identity,” says Sereti. “Having a forum available for students to speak their stories, to communicate vital facets of their identity to an audience of other students, is one of the most effective ways to achieve free communication and empathy within a student body.”

HWS Impact is designed as a platform for students to engage in the collective exploration of campus culture through the exchange of stories, ideas and experiences.

“When we get to know each other as whole human beings with stories and experiences that can’t as easily be categorized or politicized, we can overcome some of the barriers to connection and understanding,” says Jeremy Wattles, associate director of the Center of Community Engagement and Service Learning. “We need a foundation of trust to be able to work together and events like HWS Impact strive to build that trust.”