I remember my engagement to be married almost 20 years ago. The excitement and anticipation…I couldn’t wait for the adventures that lay ahead in our lives together. But it’s important to remember that the word engagement has different meanings in different contexts.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers five definitions for the word “engagement,” which I’ll use to highlight my connection to the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop:
- An arrangement to meet or be present at a specified time and place
- Something that engages
- The act of engaging; emotional involvement or commitment
- The state of being in gear
- A hostile encounter between military forces
Second, it would be an understatement to say the Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop is something that engages! The Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop serves as an introduction to the core strategies and concepts of the Humanities Center’s approach to community engagement through absent narratives – those voices or stories often left out or marginalized. The first Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop I attended highlighted often misunderstood or marginalized Veterans’ voices in conjunction with the Always Lost exhibit.
Third, participation in Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives is an emotional involvement or commitment. It is a professional development offering that prepares participants to know absent narratives as human experiences that change minds and hearts and lead to empowerment. I was challenged to think in a new way through new paradigms and to seek innovative ways of being and doing.
Fourth is the state of being in gear. Now, I must admit my first foray into the Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop came with feelings of trepidation and uncertainty. I was, after all, a 25-year Army Veteran who was more practiced at concealing my emotions than “balancing head and heart” and sharing my feelings. However, after my first Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop I was hooked, and I became a repeat participant and eventually a facilitator. I am so honored to be a part of this program!
Lastly, for those who care deeply about diversity, equity, and inclusion, though we may face challenges in promoting personal and professional development about these topics, the Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshop offers an alternative entry point. Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives offers another way of engaging in this important dialogue in a way that avoids hostile encounters about the subject by focusing on ways to embrace and include the absent narratives, identify key practices, and practice reflection to foster greater connection, empowerment, and yes…inclusion. Keeping all definitions in mind, I plan to actively continue my engagement with the Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshops and the participants who are interested in exploring deeper engagement using the ideas fostered in those workshops!