Culture Shock shakes up diversity conversations


A group of student volunteers are hypnotized into a deep sleep during Chuck King’s Culture Shock program in the Kiva Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. King hypnotized the students to act differently than their race or ethnicity and put them in different scenarios.

Arbrion Chambliss

As part of Wednesday evening’s Culture Shock event, 14 students sat on stage under hypnosis. The diversity awareness exercise involved participants, both black and white, being led to believe several scenarios.

In one, they were all white, and another in all black. Other scenarios included being disabled, for or against gay relationships and guests on the Maury Povich Show.

The Center for Student Involvement and the Education Department teamed up to bring Culture Shock, a program developed in 2005 by diversity facilitators Patrick Wilson and Darnell Head, to Kent State. The program is a mixture of comedy, hypnosis, cultural competence and dialog all designed to expose racial stereotypes and biases. The program uses hypnosis to spark conversation in an innovative way.

“After seeing Culture Shock at a conference, we wanted to bring this to Kent State as an opportunity to engage the campus in a racial and diverse dialog in an innovative and interactive way,” said N.J. Akbar, Director of Diversity Outreach and Development for the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

Wilson, a graduate of Grand Valley State University, said his first year of college was his first personal encounter with racism. He said he believes it is an issue that needs to be confronted in a constructive way.

“We started this program because at the time, we were undergrad students at a predominately white college,” Wilson said. “We saw superficial programming, but it was never anything like the reflection of how people felt, and when we went to a hypnosis show we thought, ‘What if we hypnotized people to believe they were a different race and kind of tested those stereotypes?’”

During the show, professional hypnotist Chuck King hypnotized audience members in order to give the audience a taste of different perspectives.

Education grad student Irina Shcheglova said it was interesting and enlightening to see the different stereotypes races develop about each other, and she hopes to see events that also include cultural perspectives in the future.

 “At first I wasn’t sure if it was real but when all the people fell asleep and actually started doing what Mr. King told them to do I was in complete shock,” Shcheglova said.

Culture Shock travels to different universities and corporate organizations across the country and abroad to perform.

Wilson said the main goal of the performance is to create an open dialog about issues that people normally avoid in a fun, healthy way. He said he hopes conversation will continue even after the show ends.

“The main thing we try to say to our audience is it doesn’t always have to be difficult, it doesn’t need to be offensive, and people don’t always have to have their guard up,” Wilson said. “We can just talk about these things.”

Contact Arbrion Chambliss at [email protected].