The Creighton Students Union Program Board presented its second Brave Conversations, “All about Ableism,” on March 23 over Zoom with professor of communication studies Erika Kirby.
“Kirby is one of my favorite professors at Creighton,” said Mariana Inciarte-Balza, the program board’s Creighton in Common coordinator and sophomore in the Heider College of Business.
“In our class, she taught us about all sorts of pertinent issues and topics, including physical and mental ableism,” Inciarte-Balza said.
Kirby, who is the A.F Jacobson Chair in Communication, said ableism is defined as a pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have mental, emotional and physical disabilities and have individual, institutional, and cultural levels of oppression.
“I wanted Brave Conversations to provide a space where students could understand and expand their knowledge on topics that are often seen as difficult or controversial,” said Inciarte-Balza.
“The main idea in Brave Conversations is to turn safe spaces into brave spaces.”
The interactive presentation had Kirby’s small group address problematic issues and statements about mental health and how it affects societal beliefs.
“I learned how to be more intentional and aware of microaggressions and ableism,” said Brian Le, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I believe that I could be a better advocate and be an ally in more ways than I have been. I want to challenge myself to question those around me who might not be aware of the hurtful things they can say.”
The National Alliance of Mental Illness, in 2019, reported at least 1 in 5 U.S adults experience mental illness, the most common being anxiety disorders at 19% of the adult population.
Kirby urged her audience to speak up and be an ally towards people who identify as having mental illnesses because “there’s no health without mental health.”
“While this is labeled a Program Board event, it is a program that really is for the Creighton community and a safe place for people to share their voice, their experience and to listen and grow,” said Emma Hickman, CSU vice president for programming and sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“All programs that center around social justice-driven topics are all providing safe spaces for students to learn and grow. That is exactly what [the] Program Board is hoping to do by providing these Brave Conversations.”
The program board plans to have more events and presentations like “Brave Conversations” in fall 2021.