ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Rupert Nacoste believes his career as a social scientist began in the U.S. Navy because of an incident he experienced when he was serving in the Navy aboard the USS Intrepid during the 1970s.

Presenting on Zoom as the featured speaker in the second session of the university's School of Education spring forum on diversity, equality and inclusion, Nacoste told his audience how a racially charged riot broke out and lasted for three days.

The Intrepid, he added, had weapons of mass destruction onboard. 

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After the riot ended, Nacoste and his peers received racial sensitivity training, in order to train others. And when he started training people, Nacoste realized he had “found his calling” to teach others about inclusivity and diversity.

Nacoste, a Ph.D. who holds the title of alumni distinguished undergraduate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, discussed the term he coined: neo-diversity. He described it as people interacting with people unlike themselves. And he offered suggestions on how people should respond to mental health conditions. 

During the Zoom presentation, which 26 people attended, Nacoste shared stories from his books, discussed stereotyping and told a personal story about neo-diversity.

In one of his books, “To Live Woke,” Nacoste said he retells previous students’ stories of neo-diversity situations, In the seventeenth chapter, he tells a story of a student who revealed to their best friend that they were depressed and had attempted suicide.

The friend responded with disappointment, betraying the person’s trust, Nacoste said. He noted the situation as not uncommon. 

“Are people really this uncaring?” Nacoste asked.

And he answered his own question, stating that sometimes people unintentionally give incorrect, often stereotyped, responses out of anxiety.

He then provided the audience with five tips on how to interact with new people, which also applies to talking to people during a mental-health-condition reveal.

  • Never try to interact with someone as though they represent a group
  • Go slowly in the conversation
  • Live with the anxiety that the situation may bring
  • Agree to disagree 
  • Interact with the intent to learn

Nacoste said everyone carries unintentional stereotypes, which sometimes come out as “hibernating bigotry,” especially on social media because of anonymity. He recommended that people expand their social groups to avoid hibernating bigotry.

As he closed his presentation, Nacoste told a short anecdote about going to a bar with a person in a wheelchair and making the mistake of referring to the man as “wheelchair bound.” The man corrected him, saying, “My identity is not the wheelchair.” 

Everyone has biases that sometimes come forward in conversations, and everyone makes mistakes, Nacoste said. 

Whitney McLaughlin, an assistant professor of counselor education at St. Bonaventure, invited Nacoste to speak in the series.

“His presentation was thought-provoking and perfectly highlighted our Spring Forum series theme,” McLaughlin told TAPinto Greater Olean. “I’m so glad he was able to present to our campus community.”

The third and fourth sessions of the spring forum are:

  •  “From Faculty to Leadership — A Black Woman's Experience In Higher Education,” featuring Dr. Kimetta R. Hairston, who is affiliated with Administration, Academics and Virtual Engagement at Bowie State University in Maryland and an experienced curriculum specialist in higher education, March 23, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • “Teaching In Turbulent Times: Creating a Positive School Climate to Promote Healing and Learning,” featuring Beatrice Adera, associate professor and special education department chair at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, April 27, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Zoom links will be posted closer to presentation dates.

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