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The Five Footed Elephant

My RA training (half day or full day) is called The Five Footed Elephant. I bring twice as much stuff to do than we have time to do. This way I can organically shift between personal reflection, group dynamics, personal relationships with incoming residents.

I know that this sounds super fluffy and is too airy to state exactly what I am going to be doing for RA training at 10:15 on a particular day — and I think it is important to be honest.

I generally start with an activity that levels the playing field in the room around judgements and assumptions and the difference between diversity and social justice. I think it is important to get everyone included in the conversations and not create targeted members within a group. For any kind of student leader or even professional training, some people get it, others think they get it, others know they don't, and yet others don't know what I am asking in the first place.

We build from here...

video-core comp1View clips from this program.

I cover bystander behaviors, power and privilege patterns (using Notice Notes as a self reflection tool as well as a small group discussion launch pad), LGBT stereotypes, systems of oppression, to actual action planning of programming ideas that can be collaborated on for the next academic year.

I call the program The Five Footed Elephant, because there is always an elephant (if not several) in the room, and those need to be addressed and resolved before authentic work can occur. Notice Notes provides a common language for everyone and keeps the Social Justice Conversations going over the year. The Five Footed part really uncovers how we write stories about what we feel or think is occurring without actually looking for the truth — this is GREAT for RAs because we can talk about incident reports, community standards, community damage, theme programming, etc.

As a former hall director and RA, and Student Affairs professional, I know that there is A LOT to cover in a very short period of time — so I try to build an agenda that you and your staff need during your training. I come with a skeleton of expected plans for the day and really let the conversation go where it needs to, while I also keep track of the purposeful discomfort, joy, and collaboration in the room.

I hope this helps!

Please tell your planning committee that if they in fact need more specifics, I am happy to talk about their learning outcomes, expectations, and needs assessments to make sure that those areas, philosophies, etc., are included. I actually have written a number of curricula that are used as half or full day social justice trainings and am happy to specialize one for your campus.


"Jess Pettitt facilitated an educational diversity and social justice training for about 120 student leaders at Cal Poly Pomona with a wide variety of experiences. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the amount of interaction that Jess had with them and variety of activities that were presented throughout the day. Jess was able to challenge our students that were at different points of their personal diversity and social justice development — which is a feat with 120 students! Jess is very transparent in her facilitation style, bringing humor and authenticity to her presentations, which allowed our students to feel comfortable throughout the day long training. Our students & staff thoroughly enjoyed having Jess Pettitt facilitate our student leader diversity and social justice training!!"
Piya Bose, Area Coordinator - University Housing Services, Cal Poly Pomona

"Msg: Wonderful presentation!"
signed: satisfied usf ra with a lot to think about

©2007-2014 Jessica Pettitt, I am… Social Justice and Diversity Consultant and Facilitator, All rights reserved
contactme@iamsocialjustice.com

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