The Immersive Stories program to take place online throughout March

By: Brigit Harvey

Every week in the month of March, Red River College Polytechnic will have virtual presentations to hear stories from people with a variety of socio-cultural backgrounds.

The program is designed to help students and staff regularly check their personal, social, and cultural assumptions so they can avoid making quick judgements and conclusions, according to the Immersive Stories webpage.

The first guest speaker is Vassan Aruljothi. He will talk about his experience as an immigrant living in Canada, but other speakers will tell their stories about sexual orientation, religion, accessibility issues, trauma, and more.

An RRC Polytech student learning about the Immersive Stories program at the Exchange District campus./BRIGIT HARVEY

“People who grow up in any culture have certain biases that are built into that culture,” said Rebecca Hiebert, one of the program’s organizers and an academic support specialist at the College. “By exposing people to other perspectives, they can learn to value diversity.”

Some students can struggle to diversify their groups.

Michael Puchala, a Business Administration student, said he’s noticed his peers tend to gravitate towards people with similar backgrounds to themselves.

“[Working with similar people] is just a lot easier,” said Puchala. 

Morketa Janusz, a recent Business Administration graduate who did most of his program online, said it could be hard to get to know people and learn about their cultural norms when you’re not physically interacting with them every day. 

“Unless someone were to do a presentation about their culture or background, we would only see people’s names on a square tile on Webex,” said Janusz. “The on-campus environment gave us more opportunities to learn about each other.”

He said learning about different perspectives can help create a more inclusive classroom.

“Students should have an understanding of the different people that surround them,” Janusz said. “It would make everyone feel more seen, and working together would be a better overall experience.”

Hearing real-lived stories from people can allow for a more personalized experience, said Hiebert. This can create a more impactful and interactive outcome.

“Human beings are hardwired to tell stories and listen to stories, so people might not want to listen to a formal lecture,” Hiebert said. “This way there is an authentic, improvised feel to it that allows people to be part of the conversation.” 

The Immersive Stories program will run from March 2 to April 6. The seminars will be held on Webex during lunch hours.