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Bursting the Bubble: How to Have Difficult Discussions

Project Overview

An interactive workshop about historical and current patterns of immigration and immigration activism, issues of diversity and handling difficult conversations.

Identifying the Problem

As a student at Whitman College, Jackie has been very interested in developing projects that challenge the understanding of power structures prevailing around the world while questioning paradigms and oppression. As a Content Development Coordinator of the college’s Power and Privilege Symposium, she assists others develop series of panels, lectures, screenings and workshops that address these issues. Jackie wanted to develop an interactive workshop that would address how issues surrounding power and privilege impact the immigrant community, an issue she believed needed more attention on campus.

Creating A Solution

Jackie decided to create an interactive workshop that would be part of that year’s Power and Privilege Symposium. Merging her workshop with the symposium, rather than running it on a separate occasion, provided her with the support and resources she needed to make it possible. She began by identifying the issues her workshop would cover, and worked with Professors Carlos Vargas-Salgado and Brooke Vick to develop the project. Meanwhile, Jackie was also continuing her work as coordinator for the symposium as a whole, which involved writing contracts and booking flights and hotels for the invitees. 

Jackie’s workshop, Bursting the Bubble: How to Have Difficult Discussions, used the magic of theatre, role play and short skits to help participating students realize that microaggressions and sentiments of discrimination are alive and well on their campus. The 50-minute workshop covered issues of class, body, and race. In order to introduce participants to these social problems and give them space to ask questions and have thought provoking conversations, she had the participants role play a specific scene, for which they were given a script. Afterwards, the participants were asked to reflect on what made the scripted discussion a difficult conversation, and how the conversation could have been handled better to make it a productive learning moment instead of a hurtful argument.

In addition to her own interactive workshop, Jackie successfully enriched the symposium with professors and outside speakers with vast knowledge and experience on immigration, diversity, and facilitating conversations:

What Part of 'Illegal' Don’t You Understand?

This lecture and panel explored the historical construction of illegality in the United States. Professor Aaron Bobrow-Strain gave a short history lesson on the expansion of illegality and the normalization of criminalizing migration and migrants. Whitman alumni Ashley Hansack and Deyvani Gupta shared their experience with immigration in their personal and professional lives.

"We Are Human!" Immigrant and Farmworker Organizing in Washington State

This panel focused on daily injustices farm workers and migrants face, including issues with detention centers and some the changes these local activist groups have achieved. The panelists included Ramon B. Torres, President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice) and Rank and File members, Maru Mora Villalpando, Immigrant Rights Activist member of NWDC (Northwest Detention Center) Resistance, Latino Advocacy, LLC. Jose Moreno, former detainee and member of NWDC Resistance, Colectiva de Detenidos (Collective of Detainees) and Felimon Pineda, Vice President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. The moderator was Tomas Alberto Madrigal, Ph.D. Candidate at UC Santa Barbara Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

Why This 'Diversity' Stuff Can Kill You

This lecture, presented by Whitman alum Lawrence Grandpre, focused on case studies of racial profiling, from Whitman College to the TV show “The Wire.” He incorporated his personal experience as a student at Whitman and an educator and political activist in Baltimore, Maryland. This talk introduced students to the evolving field of Black academic studies known as “Afro-Pessimism,” which makes connections to what new understanding of Black life in America means for the larger study of anti-racism and progressive politics.

Lessons Learned

Jackie is very glad she decided to incorporate her workshop into the symposium that was already being planned. “It was a great platform that made my project more manageable,” she says. She recommends anyone trying to develop their own project to look at the network they already have and see how those connections can help. 

She also encourages others to feel confident in the decisions they make concerning speakers they wish to invite to such events. Sometimes, the best speaker on a particular topic is controversial, and that can be a good thing. While she received some initial pushback from the administration about wanting to invite Lawrence Grandpre to give a lecture at the symposium (he had recently published a piece about the lack of diversity at Whitman College), she refused to back down.

Get Involved!

Jackie is now in the process of institutionalizing an intersectional immigration club on campus and organizing a week-long Immigration Symposium that will include a film screening, a local activist panel, a teach-in, a vigil, a keynote speaker, art installations and a legal services workshop. She wants this to be an intersectional symposium that addresses a host of issues faced by the immigrant community, including environmental issues, LGBT rights and workers’ rights. She is interested in speaking with anyone with experience developing a similar event, or anyone with suggestions for this particular symposium.


Jackie received funding for her workshop, and the other symposium events, through Whitman College.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2014

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