Intergroup Relations

Nicole Rixen and dance partner show off their dance talents.

by Nicole Rixen, IGR MSW Intern

April 2015

One of the best parts about interning at IGR is the amount of overlap that happens between this program and other groups around campus. This semester, not only did I start my work at IGR, I also joined the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team. During my interactions with a team of over 200 people, I have had the privilege of meeting other people who are not only passionate about dance, but about social justice as well.

As a way to gain more insight on their experiences, I asked undergraduate students about their thoughts on how the skills they developed in IGR will be useful in their career and future goals.

Michelle Huang is a sophomore dual majoring in Neuroscience and Linguistics. Not only is she an incredible dancer, but she is also currently enrolled in the facilitation training course through IGR. When I asked her what skills she had learned from IGR that would be useful in her career, Michelle discussed the intersections between health care and social identities.

Because I’m planning on going into the health sciences, I anticipate a lot of interactions with a very diverse group of people—I think IGR will be particularly useful in learning to connect with patients and develop a greater sense of understanding. I think there is a lot of intersection between aspects of health care and social identities, and the way people approach the health field can vary based on their past experiences or current living situations, so IGR and learning how to lead a dialogue would be particularly useful for that.

While Michelle might not be thinking about a career in “traditional” social justice fields, she has seen the impact intergroup dialogue has had and and she notes that IGR has influenced her future goals:

IGR has definitely made [me] more attuned to social justice education and causes, and has motivated me to become more involved in my community. It was such a rewarding experience and I have no doubt that it will continue to be, and I hope to be able to at least take what I’ve learned to make a difference in the lives around me.

Meanwhile, I've enrolled for the School of Social Work's graduate intergroup dialogue course (this course is taught by IGR faculty). As I wait for this course to start (and believe me, I’m impatiently waiting), I get to live vicariously through my friends and teammates and their IGR experiences.

Whether it be before practice, getting brunch, or hanging with a large group of people (and remember, the ballroom dance team is 200 members strong), life is a day-to-day interaction of discussing social issues and identities. Although I haven’t yet formally taken an IGR course, I can see the change within myself on areas of conflict, confrontation, and speaking out, simply due to interning in an environment and community that asks us to examine our views on these issues. 

I will leave you with a quote from Michelle. I think it perfectly encompasses the impact IGR has had in her life. I also know there are many other students with a similar feeling and message:

IGR is wonderful and so, SO applicable to many other aspects of my life. And I think that even if I don’t want to make a career out of , it did change my awareness of the community around me and has definitely opened my eyes to things beyond my small bubble.