Evanston resident hopes to bring Mosaic diversity program to Northwestern

Sammy Caiola

Evanston resident Pamela Cook is looking to bring her “one-woman show” to Northwestern, using custom-designed interactive workshops to spread a message of openness and acceptance toward racial issues in Evanston and beyond.

Mosaic Experience is an Evanston-based for-profit organization that helps groups and businesses, especially schools, conduct open dialogue about difficult subjects like equality, class differences, racism and gender issues, said Cook, co-founder and owner. Since founding the organization in 2007, Cook has worked with various elementary and high schools in the area, and she hopes to work with NU this spring.

Mosaic works with hired consultants to determine which issues to address for each client and then designs an interactive workshop to generate conversation around the topic. Programming ranges from discussions to documentary filming, Cook said.

“It’s a theatrically based activity,” Cook said. “You’re having fun while you’re also learning. The activities always go around the theme of the needs assessment. You’re experiencing things through your mind and body, using different senses to connect to people.”

Cook said she has not yet undertaken any programming with NU but hopes to collaborate with both students and faculty in the near future. She said she prefers to work with students because they are more likely than adults to be comfortable sharing in a public setting.

“Students are a lot of fun,” Cook said. “There’s still a lot of openness about change and reflection, and they’re willing to learn and grow. We generally move a lot faster with students because they are willing to really say what they feel.”

Mosaic Experience has done training in nine of the 18 schools in District 65 as well as two paraprofessional workshops, a principal workshop and a parent workshop, said Joyce Bartz, D65 interim director for special educational services.

Bartz said school administrators who have worked with Mosaic Experience are happy with the training they received. Most districts undergo some form of diversity training to increase their cultural sensitivity, she added.

“Populations are not just (diverse) ethnically but also in terms of ability level,” Bartz said. “It’s really the embrace of all people, and that’s really why we do the training. We can always improve our understanding and communication.”

Evanston’s population is 65.6 percent white and 18.1 percent black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That data makes the city slightly more mixed than Illinois, which is 71.5 percent white and only 14.5 percent black, according to the same report .

“There’s a lot of pride in diversity in Evanston, but there’s also a lot of division and a lot of misunderstanding,” Cook said. “We really need dialogue here to understand each other. A lot of assumptions happen, especially in the economic divide along with race. A lot of times we get confused between those two things.”

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Editor’s note: This article incorrectly stated one of the sources’ last names. It has since been updated to reflect the correction. The Daily regrets the error.