Shanice “NeNe” Winston is our Strategic Marketing Manager, and she is responsible for all communications and marketing initiatives for Books@Work. Previously, Shanice worked as a graduate assistant for John Carroll University, and a digital marketing consultant for Catholic Community Connection. She holds a BA in Communications (Visual Media) and an MBA from John Carroll University. We are delighted to welcome Shanice “NeNe” Winston to The Notebook and the Books@Work team!
Helen Keller once said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
These words didn’t resonate with me until I participated in a discussion on Dafina Lazarus Stewart’s book, Multicultural Student Services on Campus: Building Bridges, Re-visioning Community, at the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion at John Carroll University.
The book explores the history and primary importance of having a multicultural center at a predominantly white institution (PWI).
The Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion at John Carroll University develops programs like this one to educate the campus population on issues of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. It’s a place where students of color can openly come and engage in the promotion of cross-cultural interaction, communication, and mutual learning.
After students and staff read Stewart’s book, the director facilitated a discussion about diversity and inclusion – and the importance of social connection. Intrigued to see how students and staff bonded with each other over a controversial topic, the director noted, “It’s amazing to see people from all walks of life come together in one setting to have a genuine conversation about breaking barriers to help students of color.”
The Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion at John Carroll University develops programs such as the class discussed to educate the campus population on issues of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. It’s a place where students of color can openly come and engage in the promotion of cross-cultural interaction, communication, and mutual learning.
Conversations like these are not new to the center.
Each month, the center hosts discussions similar to those teed up in Books@Work programs, offering individuals at all levels of the university the opportunity to engage in a powerful discussion around a reading. Sometimes the conversation focuses on the reading itself; other times, the reading launches conversations into unexpected places. The programs were developed to allow students and staff to engage with community members of different backgrounds and build character, but in practice, the sessions empower participants to do something even more important: to find (and harness) the power of their inner voice.
“The sessions enabled me to hear multiple perspectives and extend community conversations centered around diversity,” said a devoted member of the center. “The stories sparked a connection that allowed me to connect with my peers and the characters’ worlds.”
What is Social Connection?
As humans, we need some sort of social connection to be productive and thrive in the workplace. We must form a culture that builds trust, respect, inclusion and productivity. The term “social connection” means belonging to a group where you bond with others. In the article, “Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection,” Dr. Emma Seppala suggests that social connection can improve an individual’s physical health and mental and emotional well-being. In “Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection,” she explains:
People with strong social connection tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, employees with higher self-esteem and greater empathy for others encourage their coworkers to also be more open to trusting and cooperating.
As a result of social connection within the workplace, employees’ work performance will also improve. Employees will feel happier and translate this into their work productivity. Most importantly, they will have mutual trust and respect for their coworkers – and will openly feel more welcome in sharing information.
A few examples illustrate how social connection can foster healthy and thriving workplaces.
Social Connection for the Workplace
Colleagues – from management to the mailroom – are happier when they share a special connection. It’s more than “just being cordial” with a co-worker.
True social connection is about feeling close to others and working together to reach a common understanding. Employees are happier when they can discuss challenging/controversial topics. Organizations that use programs like Books@Work help foster relationships that were never present before – leading to the trusting relationships that allow employees and employers to thrive.
Having strong, meaningful connections at work helps an individual feel valued and respected – which creates a collaborative environment for individuals to thrive.
The Power of Social Learning
When true social connection exists, colleagues co-create safe spaces to share new ideas and learn new things. We are all familiar with the phrase “Learning is meaningful when it is part of valued social relationships,” but how many organizations actually practiced that principle?
Feeling socially connected, especially in the workplace, is essential for any organization to grow. A diverse facilitated discussion looks at things from multiple perspectives which generates innovative ideas and out of the box thinking.
The only way we can truly learn is by seeing through the lenses of others to discover the prism of light from the facilitated literacy discussions.
Keller’s words and the facilitated discussions demonstrate the power of social connection and how it can successfully create an inclusive environment where colleagues can collaborate and learn with each other, regardless of background.
All in all, social connection has a tangible business impact on healthy and thriving – and inclusive – workplaces.
Image: Mariano, Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas, 2005. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia.org