Intergroup Relations

Photo of Kadija Deen and Shana Schoem

Kadija Deen

University of Michigan, 2008 English, BA Political Science, BA Temple University Beasley School of Law

Q: What was your IGR involvement when you were a student?

While a student at the University of Michigan, I participated in a Race & Ethnicity dialogue. Inspired by my experience, I went on to train and facilitate a Race & Ethnicity dialogue myself, and served as a facilitator with the CommonGround Program.

Q: What prompted you to get involved in IGR?

“So, when you schedule your classes, don’t forget to register for your dialogue.” – Monita Thompson (2004).

I come from a family of strong personalities and varying perspectives; we are not afraid to challenge and stand up for our beliefs. I feel as if I’ve grown up with IGR. When I was in high school I would visit my aunt, Monita, in her office at IGR. She would tell me about the initiatives the office was working on, and topics of conversation discussed in the dialogues. I would sit in the office library, read the books and articles on display, and have discussions with the staff and students on the latest happenings in politics and social justice. I came to appreciate the work IGR was doing and the change they were striving for beyond Michigan’s campus. When I received my acceptance to UM, I felt it was my time to make a contribution toward that change.

Q: What is your fondest memory of IGR (feel free to get really descriptive with this one if you'd like)?

Oddly enough, some of my fondest memories of IGR stem from some of my most frustrating moments as a facilitator. Anyone who has participated in a dialogue has experience with “that person who just doesn’t get it” (and if not, it may have been you). Patience and empathy are a necessity for effective facilitation, but sometimes you run into challenging participants that make you feel as if you’re beating your head against a brick wall. But when they “get it”… It’s usually not some instantaneous life-altering revelation. It comes in an unanticipated reflection; an off-handed comment; a question where you can see the first breaths of change in the way they take in the experience. It gives you hope. THAT’S what makes facilitating worthwhile to me.

Q: What do you do today for work or study?

After graduating from Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, I came ho][V][e to the University of Michigan, where I am currently working for the Newnan Academic Advising Center as a pre-law and LSA academic advisor.

Q: Have you found yourself using IGR skills in your job? Which skills and how?

I live the skills I gained from IGR. The law can be a very combative field, and active listening is a muscle that just doesn’t get stretched enough. Making the effort to clear my own thoughts and simply listen in that moment has been a benefit not only to my professional work, but also in my personal interactions with others. I work with students of various backgrounds and identities every day who come in with academic, professional, and personal concerns. Each of them comes in with their own lived experience, and it is important that I appreciate how my own social identities and experiences play into those interactions. When I speak to a student about her concerns regarding the social dynamics of the legal field, I have a responsibility to that student to be candid about the tenure of women in the legal field and the absence of Asian American partners at law firms in her state. When I arrange the setup of my office I want to ensure that it not only feels welcoming, but accessible to students with physically different needs, which I can’t say would have readily come to mind without my experiences with IGR.

Q: What does it mean to you to be an IGR alum and co-chair of the Alumni Committee?

While IGR may not always be at the forefront my mind, the experiences I gained through dialogue have been deeply ingrained in who I am; from the way I view my own reflection in the mirror, to the moments I have to check my own privilege. As an alum, IGR is the safe space that allows me to surround myself with passionate social justice advocates who recognize that, while we’re not all at the same place in our journey, we’re all here to challenge and gain a better understanding of ourselves.

While we didn’t have the opportunity to meet until working together on the alumni committee, I greatly value the relationship I’ve forged with Shana through our shared experience with dialogue. I could not have hoped for a more amazing co-chair, and I look forward building bonds with our alums across the world.

Q: What do you envision the alumni committee doing (or doing more of) in the next two years?

My hope for the alumni committee is to broaden and strengthen our alumni network, and to develop ways of connecting alums through formal programming and informal social networking. I am excited to work with the committee on creative initiatives connecting IGR students past and present.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Give me a creative outlet, and you’ll feed me for a lifetime. I love art in all of its forms (music, painting, film…) and adore culinary exploration. Most days you can find me curled up with a book and my cat Noname (No-nah-may).


Shana Schoem

B.A., Women’s Studies, University of Michigan LSA and Residential College 2008
J.D., University of Miami School of Law 2011

Q: What was your IGR involvement as a student?

I participated in the IGR facilitation training course and facilitated a semester-long dialogue on race and ethnicity. What prompted me to get involved in IGR: I was drawn to experiences where I could meaningfully engage with others around identity, and challenge my own biases and assumptions. IGR allowed me to meet all types of people from across the University of Michigan and push myself toward continued learning and exploration.

Q: What is your fondest memory of IGR?

This is so hard! My most recent favorite memory was an IGR alumnimeeting/mixer when we “played” the mingle mingle mingle icebreaker. I loved getting the chance to get to know more deeply the other folks engaged in the alumni committee through a classic IGR activity.

Q: What do you do today?

I work at the University of Michigan in the Office of Student Conflict Resolution(OSCR). I use a variety of strategies, rooted in social justice and restorative justice practices and student development theory, to address conflicts involving students, ranging from issues with a roommate to serious violations of the University’s code of conduct.

Q: Have you found yourself using IGR skills in your job?

I use my IGR skills on the job every day! The way that I approach interactions with colleagues and students is influenced by the awareness I gained of power and privilege and the personal work IGR allowed me to do around my own social identities. My approach to co-facilitating meetings or presentations is infused with IGR skills, including critical skills around building trust with a co-facilitator. I don’t shy away from addressing tough issues, because IGR gave me the experience of reaching my learning edges and a bit of a love for discomfort. I could go on…

Q: What does it mean to you to be an IGR alum and co-chair of the Alumni Committee?

Being an IGR alum has opened me up to a whole new community of people who share in experiences similar to mine and who are passionate about dialogue and social justice. It gives me a space to explore my social identities as an adult, which is oftentimes quite different from my student experience. Being a co-chair of the Alumni Committee is so exciting and a great honor. I’m looking forward to deepening my commitment to IGR through this role and getting to learn more about our alums across the world and what current IGR students are learning today. I’m also very excited to work with and learn from Kadija, whom I admire greatly.

Q: What do you envision the alumni committee doing in the next two years?

I’m hopeful that the alumni committee will both broaden and deepen its reach to all of our IGR alums. I’m excited to think creatively about how we can connect to each other in new and different ways and support this very special program.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to visit the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, kayak on the Huron River in the summer, hibernate in the winter, binge-watch t.v. shows, and spend quality time with the people (and cat) that mean the most to me.