Difficult Knowledge, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy, and Safe-ish Spaces

September 12, 2019, 12:00pm to 2:00pm
Intended audience: 
Academic Support Staff, Faculty, Graduate Students, Instructors

Violence and trauma are all around us—fatal shootings by police, sexual violence, family separations, addiction, abuse, displacement of refugees. Often, these situations give rise to individual healing journeys and collective efforts to create change. But the pain and loss embedded in them also has a damaging effect long after the events have passed.

We invite many difficult experiences into our classrooms, historically intimate and distant, often through written and visual text depicting traumatic events and experiences. At the same time, we have many students bringing a history of trauma into the classroom, fighting a variety of battles which have been woven into their lives from childhood. Exploring the impact of this emotional and intellectual terrain, and on whom, is increasingly rooted in our pedagogy, and yet also entangled in dilemmas and sharp concerns.

How can we respond to suffering without further harming? How do we identify symptoms of trauma that we might be dimly aware of? What considerations should we hold as we plan courses, assignments, and classroom activities? What pedagogies can we develop to meet the effects of trauma? What do we mean when we use terms such as ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’, and ‘harmful’? We all have different experiences of trauma which can also lead us to interpret shared experiences differently and can be contentious; but how is such contention also fruitful terrain? Why is trauma-informed education an equity issue?

Join us for a panel discussion and open dialogue with colleagues from across campus. Complimentary lunch provided with RSVP. 


  • Zeus Leonardo, Associate Dean and Professor, Graduate School of Education
  • Elida Bautista, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Haas School of Business
  • Elisa Huerta, Director, Multicultural Community Center


Series description

Audience shot at panel on toxic stress January 20, 2018

Co-hosted by the American Cultures Center, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Division for Equity & Inclusion, and the AIS, these timely, interactive dialogues feature dynamic faculty panelists and engage the Berkeley community in exploring how equity and justice challenges – locally, regionally and nationally – are impacting our students, instructors, classrooms, and campus. All events feature plenty of time for open, facilitated discussion. 

Check out recaps and recordings of past programs under the Stories tab and our YouTube channel.

This Fall, join us for a "semester of learning," by exploring the topics in the series and helping us identify key take-aways, new scholarly questions, and practical strategies for the classroom. Other programs slated for Fall 2019 (exact dates tbd):

  • LGBTQ+ inclusivity (October)
  • Beyond Accommodation: Changing the Disability Frame (November)
  • Bringing it All Together: Teaching in Troubled Times workshop (December)