North Central News

Student-organized series encourages participants to reflect on diversity in new ways

Lauren Ford

Oct 01, 2020

The Honors Program is hosting a Salon Series focusing on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as a way to expand important “conversations” within the campus community. Led by North Central faculty and staff, all six sessions can be joined via Microsoft Teams; many can also be attended in person when appropriate social distancing measures can be observed.

Nicholas Cheop ‘22 and Kaylyn Walsh ‘22, co-vice presidents of the Honors Program, as well as Lorri Kucharski ‘21, president of the Honors Program, created the series. “We've been hearing so much about diversity and equity, but we've only been getting surface-level information. We want to know more, to understand better," explained Cheop. “Especially on a majority white campus, it’s really important that we make sure we're being inclusive. We decided this was one way we could help.”

Faculty and staff jumped at the chance to lead the discussions, despite full schedules and plenty of uncertainty baked into the semester. “We didn’t get a single ‘no,’” said Cheop. “We’re lucky to have so many professors who really care. They brought lots of great ideas and enthusiasm to the table.”

Associate Dean for Engaged Learning Kristin Geraty, who directs the Honors Program, noted that students took the lead with this project every step of the way. “I’m thrilled with what they’ve done,” she said. “The salon concept is intellectual but casual, and it has a lot of energy around it. Plus it taps into subject matter that students really care about, and it gives everyone a chance to enter the conversation in a way that’s nonthreatening."

Jennifer Shah, assistant professor of education, agrees. Shah led the first session, and said that she wanted to lay the groundwork for students “at all stages of the journey” to join the discussion. “I wanted to help them get into a headspace where they could reflect on themselves as well as the world around them,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to have a chance to see all the ways we can think differently about what we think we already know.

“The salon format also provides a type of ‘third space,’” she added. “That’s basically a space that falls between the personal and the professional. This can be especially important for BIPOC students because they may feel freer, more authentically themselves.” (Watch Shah’s presentation on YouTube.)

The series has proven so popular that a second set of presentations is in the works for spring semester.  "I couldn’t be happier about that,” says Cheop, who already has compiled a list of faculty interested in participating. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I can’t believe I’ve helped make this happen.”

Honors Program Salon Series

  • September 9: Dr. Jennifer Shah (assistant professor of education) and privilege
  • September 22: Dr. Alicia Okpareke (assistant professor of education) and education
  • October 6: Dr. Suzanne Chod (associate professor of political science) and politics
  • October 20: Dr. Jennifer Jackson (associate professor of English and Svend & Elizabeth Bramsen Professor in the Humanities) and reflection
  • November 5: Ms. Dorothy Pleas (assistant dean of students and director of multicultural affairs) and intersections
  • November 18: Dr. Sohinee Roy (associate professor of English) and reconciliation

For more information, including Microsoft Teams links to live sessions, please contact Nick Cheop at