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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mosaic in a “Fish Bowl”

Published: September 7, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Inside the Intercultural Center lounge, 37 collages can be found hanging on the wall. Each one gives off a distinct air with different pictures, drawings, and phrases cut in unique shapes and patterns.

While each may appear to look different, they fit together to form the display for the 2007 Mosaic Program.

Set up as a pre-orientation program, Mosaic is designed as an intensive two-day program for incoming freshmen to discuss the ins and outs of diversity.

Over the course of thirty-six hours, participants are exposed to a wide array of activities, games, discussions and lectures designed to make one look at diversity differently.

Alex Braver 09 and Ashley Hebert 09 were selected in November 2006 as the co-coordinators of Mosaic.

Although both Braver and Hebert had their own distinct visions for the program, the two looked to, in Heberts words, put our own stamp on the program. Braver hoped to talk more about what diversity means, and wanted the topics to stretch beyond racial and ethnic diversity.

Applying the lessons of Mosaic to real life was a major goal for Hebert. The two worked alongside the other seventeen Mosaic Ambassadors to perfect the games and activities. Braver and Hebert decided to only use an activity if it had the whoa factor and left an impact on those who participated.

Thirty-seven first-years were chosen to participate in Mosaic. Marie Zazueta 11 decided to apply because Mosaic looked like a good opportunity to meet new people and get accustomed to Brandeis. Fellow participant Kaamila Mohamed 11 agreed saying that she thought the program would cover a wide range of interesting topics.

Mosaic first-years moved in on August 24, alongside International and TYP students. The opening of Mosaic consisted of familiar icebreakers, followed by a unique version of the Game of Life.

Participants were given ID cards with various symbols, and as in the board game Life, the objective for each player was to try and get an education, find a job, start a family, and collect luxury items. It quickly became apparent some people were much more successful at the game, while others found themselves in jail.

After the game ended, Braver and Hebert explained that the symbols on each ID card determined the individuals gender, sexuality, race, and social class. In the game, the students who represented white, heterosexual, upper class males faired far better than those who represented black, homosexual, lower class females.

Saturday brought new icebreakers, games, and dialogue. Sahar Massachis 11 favorite activity was called the Fish Bowl. Everyone in the program sat in a large circle, while four to six people who identified as part of different minority groups sat in the center.

The people in the center carried out a deep and provocative discussion about what it is like being a part of a minority group. For Marie Zazueta 11, the intense discussions that resulted from the Fish Bowl was the highlight of the program.

The biggest surprise for Braver and Hebert was the chance to bring Reggie Sapp to speak. Sapp is not only a Brandeis Alumni, one of the first students to take part in the TYP program, and one of the few people to play for the short-lived Brandeis football team, but also one of the leaders in the 1969 takeover of Ford Hall.

During the speech, Sapp reflected on his experience as one of the lead coordinators of the takeover in which black students demanded recognition of their civil rights from the Brandeis administration.

Mosaic closed with a moving ceremony that embodied the spirit of the program. Earlier in the day, everyone in Mosaic wrote down a stereotype and a phrase about that stereotype they hoped never to hear again.

Those statements were hung on the wall of the ICC on Saturday night. Each Mosaic participant, one by one, grabbed a piece of paper from the wall, read the statement, described why the statement was unjust, and proceeded to tear up the paper to enthusiastic applause.

Even in Heberts third year of participating in Mosaic, she got a new meaning out of this years program.

Her first year was a really awesome way to begin my experience at Brandeis, while her second year helped her build close bonds with the other Mosaic Ambassadors. Finally as the co-coordinator of the program, Heberts reward was helping [the ambassadors to] help others. For Braver, who did not previously participate in the program, the satisfaction came in the feeling that all the work, was really worth it.

In speaking with first-years it became clear that Mosaic was a unique way to begin their Brandeis experience. For Mohamed it was a thought provoking experience, while for Massachi, Mosaic gave him a sense of confidence and a nice set of friends.